There has been a great deal of criticism recently about teens and the Internet, particularly about a website called MySpace.com. A recent report aired by Dateline, stated that “It’s free, easy to join, and easy to message its members. Kids chat about everything from school to sports to fund raisers for Katrina victims. It all seems like innocent fun, and it can be. However, many parents and teens are unaware there are hidden dangers.”

Now, the blame game begins and all fingers point to those who run MySpace.com because the site is not protected. Should we not, instead, think about the last sentence of the Dateline report? It said many parents are “unaware” there are hidden dangers. Is Dateline saying the fault lies elsewhere because parents were not “aware”?

It is not the duty of MySpace.com, or anyone else, to keep children safe from predators. That duty lies with the parents. It is not a secret that there are no censors on the Internet. It is also not a secret that there are services available to help parents monitor what their children have access to on the Internet. Some online services and Internet service providers (ISPs) have features which allow parents to limit their children’s access to certain services and features. There are also age-appropriate parental controls available, as well as a software program that blocks certain inappropriate material. There are many other options available. Saying that parents are not “aware” is a copout. It is the job of the parent to become aware. You don’t just let your child run loose; you become involved in what they do: you “parent” them.

For more information on how to become involved, there is a free brochure available called “Teen Safety on the Information Highway” which can be ordered by phoning 1-800-843-5678 or can be viewed online at http://www.safeteens.com/safeteens.htm.

This Week's Circulars