Thursday, April 3, 2008

MySpace Millenium

by Stacy Dittrich

There is a monster lurking in your computer. Actually, there's no telling how many monsters are hiding behind that screeen, since MySpace, the social networking conglomerate, boasts close to a half billion members. Clearly, I'm a hypocrite of the highest levels since I happen to be included in the above number. However, I'm an author and use the forum for networking and advertising my books. But I'm also a police officer. The requests to become my "sex slave" and "whipping boy" (yes, those were sent) were deleted. More importantly, I'm thirty-five years old and can handle it. I'm not ten.

Granted, while working my "day job," I am continuously shaking my head in confusion and bewilderment at the lack of common sense I see in people. Case in point: A woman called me to report a sixty-year old sexual predator was sending her daughter explicit e-mails. Okay--tell me more. "He lives in Texas and was sending them to her MySpace page." How old is your daughter? "She's ten."


My response: "A ten-year old on MySpace is like throwing meat at a pack of hungry wolves . . . shut her page down!" I failed to add the word "moron" to the former, but admittedly was thinking it. I have a twelve-year old daughter who is absolutely forbidden from the Web site. Period. Unfortunately, having Mom and Dad as police officers, she tends to be a little more "restricted" than most. The word "MySpace" is written on our police reports at least once a week. Fights, stalking, assaults, telephone harassment, and sex crimes have been committed in the space of the cyber-hangout.

It gets worse when parents become involved. I've witnessed parents sending messages to their son's ex-girlfriends, referring to them as whores, sluts, and the like. I've seen them threaten children as young as twelve. Which brings me to the Megan Meier case. She was the thirteen-year old who committed suicide after a six-week MySpace relationship with a guy who was "enamored" of her. Turns out, the boy was the mother of an ex-friend of Megan's who gave her a "Ha! Joke's on you!" message, prior to her suicide. She was never charged with a crime. Megan's mother (pictured right with photos of Megan) gave the following statement regarding her daughter's torment: "When adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year- old, with or without mental problems, it is absolutely vile."

She certainly had a lot more restraint than I would have.

It's not only MySpace anymore. Knock-off social networking sites are producing the same results. The British fave, Bebo, has allowed numerous teenagers to post their own memorials with seventeen of them committing suicide within the past year. Now, the videogame industry is jumping on-board. With interactive games like Halo that make it extremely difficult to track members, sexual predators are all over it. One juvenile who engaged in a sexual relationship with a twenty-seven year old that she had met on the game committed suicide. It's unrealistic to believe that her tragedy will be an isolated incident. . . .

Federal task forces are already enacted for the social-networkers. But, these are the same members of law enforcement who are grappling with identity theft, fraud, etc. They are overwhelmed and can't possibly monitor every social network. Mainly, it's up to parents to watch the computer activity of their children and teenagers. (One of our contributors has been on the front line of keeping MySpace from becoming TheirSpace.) Yes, in your children's eyes you may be the "bad" guy but . . . your vigilance may end up saving their lives.

Stay Safe!


Felicia Donovan said...

Stacy, great post and all good reasons why everyone needs to understand that no matter what initiatives these social networking sites take for shoring up security, there is NO substitute for parental oversight. That includes Craig's List, too, which has become a favorite among miscreants.

Unfortunately, as you so aptly said, danger comes in many forms and is delivered through many media - beyond the computer, kids are getting harrassed via text messaging, stalked via on-line interactive games - above and beyond the "traditional" social networks.

Stay safe, stay alert, and for heaven's sakes, keep talking to your kids.

Felicia Donovan

Laura (Kramarsky) Curtis said...

Part (most?) of the problem as far as I can see is that all too few parents today are willing to be "the bad guy." They want to be their kids' "friends." Lori Drew, who should be in jail for what she did to Megan Meier, as far as I am concerned, only took things one step further than hordes of parents who are so concerned with being active parts of their kids' lives that they forget they are their kids' *parents.*

OK, stepping off the public school teacher soapbox now...

Wendy Roberts said...

It's scary out there! With 4 kids all vying for computer time, I often feel like I'm running a police state LOL.

Stacy Dittrich said...


I agree, totally. Too many parents want to be "cool" and forget their main function...

As I public school teacher I can imagine the headaches you get from such "cool" parents. You have my sympathy!

Thanks for taking the time to post!

Stay Safe,

TxMichelle said...

I was clearing some space on my puter by going into and deleting out the history. I noticed a lot of youtube sites on a day when I was not home and my son was not supposed to be on. (he is not allowed to play games on school days) Needless to say it was some that were a little risky. I confronted my son. It was him and we had a long talk about it. I told him he was not old enough to be going onto those sites and I would be checking the history each day.

The saddest thing is the videos he was watching were of young girls kissing and in risky situations. He is eleven these girls were maybe 13-15! I told him that curiosity is normal, but that is not the best way to find out about girls. We had a long conversation about the freaks that are on the internet. I wish those girls parents were doing the same and finding out what their kids are up to. If they are putting themselves out there like that now they can expect a whole lot more in the future.

You are right. There are too many parents not putting their foot down and being a parent. Instead they feel their chidren are their equals. I tell mine if they were my equal they would help pay half the bills! LOL
Good post!

Stacy Dittrich said...


Kudos for being a true mother! One would think at the age group of girls you described on YouTube it is bordering on child porn....especially the 13-year old. It makes me shudder at the thought. Keep an eye on the cell phones as well. Some of the material coming through those is unbelievable (videos, photos, etc.)

I might have to use the "pay the bill" line in my home if you don't mind! Thanks!

A. said...

Something else to consider is the lack of computer savvy among many adults (parents). It may not be so much a matter of parents not putting their feet down or being cool, but of truly not knowing what goes on.

I'm fairly tech savvy and can see the family computer (where my teen-agers perch) from my kitchen and living areas AND I'm a stay-at-home mom (and very un-cool if I do say so myself), and they still manage to get things past me.
The reason I know this is because they tattle on eachother, lol.

Often times those YouTube videos are put up from someones home where the parents are away, don't check, or are lax.

Donna Weaver said...

Great post, Stacy.

A. makes a good point about many parents not being as computer savvy as their children. Still, they need to be aware of the danger of cyber predators. There are many resources available to turn to for help. For example, police departments in many areas offer free parental control software for home computers and/or guidance for parents needing assistance.

A. said...

Donna, I agree that it's a parent's responsibility to be informed.

To add to my earlier point, we are in a different age of raising kids in so many ways when it comes to technology. Kids generally learn things so much faster than adults. I know my kids take middle/high
school courses in web design, power point, excel, graphic design, video editing, podcasting, movie-chatting, google sketch-up, etc.
The computer resources available to them are endless.

Show me an average parent that has this degree of tech-knowledge. My guess is they're few and far between.

The typical parent is lucky if they can get a pc up and running.
So much has changed in the past 5-7years, it's a challenge to keep up.

Kids are VERY smart, and even with parent that are vigilant, there's so much they can get away with.
I'm not offering an excuse as much as I think we really need to know what we're up against.