Thursday, July 26, 2007

Doing the Obvious

If you're a registered sex offender the social networking site MySpace has a message for you: "Don't come around here no more!"

Tthat's right, in a bold and surprisingly unprecedented move, MySpace announced two days ago it had decided to eliminate 29,000 users from the system because they were registered sex offenders. It had apparently dawned on MySpace that it might be a bad idea to have registered sex offenders socializing on its site with millions of teenagers. The service hopes other social networking sites follow its lead, according to a statement by Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam.

My first reaction: Well, duh. Does anybody out there think it's a good idea to have registered sex offenders interacting online with 14-year-olds, which is the minimum age for joining MySpace?

My second reaction: It's a defensive ploy. MySpace was sued earlier this year by parents of teens who were sexually assaulted by people they'd met on the service. Some bloggers at the time derided parents too preoccupied with their own lives, out of touch or lazy to take responsibility for knowing the whereabouts or doings of their own children. Not being a parent myself I feel unqualified to judge. However, I don't think it's a coincidence that just a few months after the lawsuit, MySpace suddenly felt inspired to take decisive action--to at least remove the most obvious of threats.

So now, if a child is sexually assaulted by a MySpace acquaintance, at least it won't be someone already well known to law enforcement officials to have that particular activity as his or her lifestyle.

If I were a parent, I'd feel safer already.

And that's really the point (and my third reaction): So what? Will kicking registered sex offenders off MySpace make it safe? Well, maybe marginally safer. And it's such a gimme it seems idiotic not to do it. But really, little has changed. Parents must be responsible for their children, and children must be responsible for themselves, whether they're wandering the pages of MySpace or the streets of Manhattan as I did when I was an adolescent.

I remember once a middle-aged man in perfectly clean clothes offering me money to come "stand guard" while he changed his pants because, he claimed, he'd spilled motor oil on them. I was about 11, and I knew better than to go with him.

And that's the bottom line. A child who doesn't know to view such invitations for what they are doesn't belong unsupervised on any urban street. Or on any online community, which is pretty much the same thing.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home