When the New York Times writes about My Space in the Thursday Styles, it has become mainstream. The article, like media in general, creates fear and spin. Parents are scared. Your children are potential victims. This is bad. FBI agents are advising parents to examine this situation.
I have 2 kids that use My Space. It is their generations space to represent themselves. Did parents freak when Elvis came on the scene? Did they freak when the Rolling Stones came on the scene? Did they freak when they grew their hair long and rebelled? Answers to all of the above and more is yes, yes yes. Think about what you did growing up that your parents were scared of. They were scared because they didn’t understand the space and weren’t sure how to teach you the tools to navigate the situation.
What I take from the article is to be intimately involved in what is happening with your kid. There are tons of users of My Space. It is impossible for a predator to pin point a kid who is not interested in finding the predator too. If someone lets an unknown person in to their space and begins conversations with someone they don’t know, yes, there could be consequences. The key here is talking to your kid. Knowing what they are doing on the Internet. Going to their site and checking it out. Making sure that they are blocking people who they don’t know to become "friends" on their site. Kids who are looking for something will find it regardless of My Space.
Perhaps I sound naive and too trusting of our kids but we believe in making our kids feel like confident in their decisions by giving them our respect for their intellectual decision making. It is a give and take relationship. Giving them our trust instills confidence and tools to navigate the world. Yet, do we know what is going on with their use on the web? Sure. Do we discuss not talking to invisible strangers? Sure. Do we talk about what is appropriate to post and what is not when it comes to pictures? Sure. We have a continual open conversation about My Space, email and anything related to the web and their life in general. Life in general covers school work, friends, music they are into, their take on politics, sports, books, movies, their thoughts and how they feel. Just liked we’d talk with our friends. We are interested in their thoughts.
David Brooks also wrote an editorial in the Times today called Both Sides of Inequality. Annette Lareau is a well known sociologist who has spent the last 20 years literally in American families living rooms watching them interact with their kids. Her findings are quite interesting. Working class child rearing is very different from upper middle class homes. She writes that upper middle class homes spent a lot of time talking, involving themselves in their kids lives, allowing their kids to pass judgment in situations which in turn helps them to become better navigators of the world once they leave the nest. Working class child rearing tends to have a starker difference between adults and children. Less talking, less decision making, less explanations for their choices. These kids end up have a more difficult time navigating the world. This is obviously generalized but she has spent the last 20 years researching this topic.
I bring up this article with My Space because the disconnect in our society between the upper middle class and working families gets larger every day. My Space is an area where kids can lose themselves, find new communities if they aren’t happy with the one they live in, also enhance the community they love. We are now completely entrenched in this new world. Perhaps we should give some thought about our social differences and how we can help all kids navigate this world we live in with a clear picture of the downsides and upsides of the world wide web.
Whether you like it or not, they are going to use My Space or other aspects of the web. It is up to us as a community and parents to help our kids understand how to use all aspects of the web intelligently. Telling them no only works until they understand how to do it without your knowledge.