For people not familiar with the
thriving Internet social networking communities of MySpace or Friendster,
more and more teens and college age adults are using the world
of the internet to communicate in ways we had no inkling of a
few years ago.
Social networking is booming as young adults find one another
online to chat, post comments, post photos, and share info
about the latest happenings in their world to their Myspace
pages and Friendster networking sites.
MySpace has a massive user base of more than 60 million members or
These visitors share pictures of themselves and all kinds
of personal and even private information with complete strangers.
It's free, easy to join, and easy to message among its
members. Kids chat about everything from school, to sports, to
world events. It all seems like innocent fun, and it can be.
Unfortunately, many parents and teens are unaware that there
are serious hidden dangers.
Here's the way it works. Myspace is basically a
free bulletin board for anyone (not just teens) to create a
web site that is all about social networking and communicating with
friends and creating new friends, too.
Users create a free account; enter information about
themselves (personal profiles), in as much or little detail as
they want. They then share their site with their friends.
Their friends can then post comments on the Myspace. It
becomes a great big bulletin board of social interaction.
The kids are glued to these things and seem to know how to
find one another and chase down the latest hot info in a
So what does this mean to communication in the Internet age
for teens and young adults? It puts a fancier face on the
outpouring of information exchange between teens.
It used to be that only the geeky teens had web pages about
themselves. They were the only ones who knew how to build
them. Now, with these easy to use tools at their disposal,
every teen or young adult can have a site. That means
networking spreads very fast.
The sharing aspect of these sites is not only their good side
but also their bad side as well. Many schools and parents have
become alarmed at the content of some of the Myspace sites
that students have built. In typical teen fashion some kids
say on their site what probably should not be said in public.
They post as though it were a diary and then it gets spread
around. This means that hate and meanness can spread within
the community quickly. Some schools have cracked down and
told students they would be expelled if they do not clean up
their sites. Parents, just finding out about the technology
and checking it out for the first time become alarmed at the
things that are said on these postings.
There is a very serious downside to the rapidly increasing
population of these Social Networking Communities. The "MySpace" web
community is also being invaded by Scammers and criminals.
The predators, (that's what they are), act just like the rest of the
web community visitors, but they load their email communications
with malicious software like trojan horses and even keyloggers.
They take advantage of users' trust in the networks' recognized
names to create bogus links that appear to be legitimate. These
links can lead to dangerous Web sites that capture sensitive
Of course that aspect comes back to the old thing of parents
needing to be in tune with their kids and what is going on in
their world. You cannot give a kid a computer and internet
access and then walk away and not pay any attention.
Events that have raised alarm in this world of social
networking include kids who post news of a party in their
area, to their site. Instead of getting to "just" their
friends it ends up spreading to the whole area. Homes have
been overrun by crowds of kids trying to attend parties. One
such event even ended with a fatal stabbing when the crowd got
to big and unruly.
Certainly, this type of tragedy can happen with or without
such social networking sites in teens lives. However, social
networking sites are not going to fade away. Myspace has over
60 million subscribers and was recently bought by a major
corporation. They intend to make a lot of money from these
sites for years to come.
It is a very lucrative target market for advertising
revenue, and for thieves, hackers, cyber criminals and
If teens and young adult visitors to these web communities practice the same restraints
and cautions as when they communicate by Instant Messaging or read
their email, there's a good chance they won't become victims of the phishers, spammers and other physically dangerous predators.
... Richard Rossbauer