On Monday MySpace announced an Internet safety program, aimed at protecting teens from online predators and helping parents and schools learn how to keep kids safe on the Web site.
MySpace will work with school associations and Seventeen magazine to distribute copies of a "Guide to Internet Safety" for parents and school administrators. Among the tips in the parents guide: Be careful of what information you make public, be skeptical of who is messaging you and be picky about what you post online.
With this move, MySpace is responding to the concerns of parents and schools that the site does not do enough to protect teens’ privacy online. However, there is still a long way to go.
One common criticism is that MySpace does not have a system to verify the ages of its members. Those who say they are under 14 are not allowed to register, but registrants can lie about their age. MySpace does say it will delete members who it finds have given a false birth date.
In addition, the profiles of teens between 14 and 16 are set to "private" by default, limiting other members’ access to personal information, but this option is easily changed.
In a 2006 study by Insight Research Group for Common Sense Media, 85% of parents said they consider the Internet a risk for children and teens; not a surprising response.
However, the same group of parents also agreed that the Internet provides significant opportunities for learning and growth. Whether this takes place on MySpace is open to question, although the site now bills itself as a "premier lifestyle portal for connecting with friends, discovering popular culture, and making a positive impact on the world."