PARENTAL CONCERN GROWING ABOUT MYSPACE, FACEBOOK
Sentinel & Enterprise
Elena Moyer recently allowed her daughter to use MySpace.com, sitting down with her and explaining what was allowed on the Web site and what was not. "I let my daughter use it and I regret it now," Moyer said while waiting for her daughter at Leominster High School last week.
"I would check it, but then behind my back she would do these type of survey deals," said Moyer, who also has similar problems with her 14-year-old daughter's MySpace page.
Her daughter's answers to the surveys would go onto the site and could give strangers personal information that they could use to build a relationship.
"It's not something I'd recommend," said Moyer, who has her own MySpace page. "I made a personal choice to say OK, I'm going to monitor it, but I don't think it's something that should be allowed until they're much older."
As social networking sites like MySpace.com and Facebook.com become more and more popular among younger and younger students, parents are increasingly becoming concerned, according to Parry Aftab, an attorney and Internet safety advocate who runs wiredsafety.org.
The popularity of NBC Dateline's show, "To Catch a Predator," which entraps sexual predators who prey on underage kids online, is at the same time alerting parents to the dangers about letting their kids use Web sites.
"Parents' eyes have been opened to the guys who are out there," Aftab said.
Moyer does require both her daughters' passwords as a must for them to use MySpace or similar sites.
Moyer's 16-year-old daughter, Erika, said MySpace doesn't have to be dangerous as long as kids use common sense.
But when questioned about her own behavior on the site, she said she was only "bending the rules."
"I don't bend it too far to the point where some psycho is coming after me," Erika Moyer said.
Some parents said this week they are banning their children from using social networking sites.
Yvonne Stevens said she won't allow her 15-year-old daughter to use MySpace, but she admitted she has no way of enforcing the ban.
"I don't know, you have to trust and you have to supervise," Stevens said while waiting for her daughter at LHS.
Stevens said parents now better understand about what these Web sites mean for their children.
"A lot of kids are now on MySpace, but I think a lot of parents are becoming more aware of it," Stevens said.
One option for worried parents is security software, which tracks every keystroke hit, every Web site visited, every Instant Message conversation and can even take screenshots every five minutes.
"As parents, we need to watch what's going on, make sure everything's OK," said Jesse Song, a spokesman for Family Cyber Alert, one of the programs on the market.
Song said it is a decision parents have to make if they value security more than privacy.
Aftab believes that unless it involves an at-risk youth, parents should never use the spy software available online.
"If your kid won't listen, or if you have to spy on them, you've got bigger problems than MySpace," Aftab said.
Monitoring software could be a good idea as a safety mechanism, where parents let the children know it is being placed on the computer, but won't be used except in emergencies.
"If something serious happens ... this will track what happened, this will track where you are," Aftab said.
But the danger is very real no matter who the student is, Aftab said.
She cited a high school student council in Rockville, Md., which set up a fake Facebook.com character who was purportedly transferring to the school from another state.
Five hundred students "friended" him and three girls offered to meet him in real life, Aftab said.
"He was the most popular kid in school and he didn't even exist," she said.
But Aftab said parents should not react rashly and shut off their children's connection to these sites.
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