A parent’s guide
to keeping teens
By Aliza Sherman
SANDIE PAGE, A Raleigh, North Carolina–
based accountant and mom to 14-year-old
Chelsea, didn’t know anything about MySpace
until her daughter started using it. Chelsea
learned about the site from friends and spends
time there “talking” to them through instant
messages (IMs) and listening to music.
Says Page, “At first I was concerned due
to all the on-line predators you hear about, With some Be private. Verify that your teen isn’t
but once we established ground rules my publishing identifyinginformation in his
concerns lessened.” communication and or her profile such as last name, location
On MySpace.com, teens can post public or address.
or private profiles of themselves on personal MySpace Web pages. They can also publish guidance, parents Check in. Do random drop-ins on your teen’s page and check his or her friends’
blogs, or on-line diaries, sharing their intimate thoughts. Some teens spend hours decorating can help ensure that pages to review those discussions. Be savvy. Realize your teen might have
their MySpace page, adding icons and music or video clips, as a means of self-expression. a child’s online secret MySpace pages beyond the one you access, so inquire periodically.
They even “hang out” on one another’s pages and post comments. experience is safe. Don’t overreact. “It’s better if [teens have] a caring guide by their side” both
It’s all a way of socializing in the modern on-line and off, says Collier.
age, says Costco member Anne Collier, co- harassment or cyber-bullying,” says Collier. In the case of the Pages, Chelsea taught
author of the book MySpace Unraveled: What “For older teens riskiness is more about nega- her mother how MySpace works. For Sandie’s
It Is and How to Use It Safely (Peachpit Press, tive self-exposure—how they represent them- own comfort level and for her daughter’s
2007) with Internet expert Larry Magid. selves on-line, where they have little if any well-being, she set specific rules regarding
“Social networking is basically just control over info after they’ve uploaded it.” MySpace.
socializing on-line,” says Collier. “It’s another Once content is posted on-line, anyone “[Chelsea] had to show me what was on
way to communicate and spend time with with access to it can copy and paste it else- her [MySpace] page,” she recalls. “I also had
your circle of friends, and, in some cases, where. A photo shared among friends, for to get her log-in name and password so I
widen that circle. [Users are] exploring, find- example, could be displayed publicly and even could log on to her page at any time.” She
ing validation, learning how to assess risk, manipulated in an embarrassing way. made it clear that Chelsea was not to respond
learning social norms, sharing musical inter- Publishing on-line can expose teens to pranks to requests from anyone she did not know.
ests. There is personal, social, creative and or, even worse, abuse. Today, Page feels a certain level of com-
career development going on in social-net- Collier suggests that parents talk about fort with her daughter frequenting MySpace,
working sites just as [there is] all along on the the on-line part of their teenager’s social life. but she now faces a new challenge: getting
Web and in our kids’ off-line lives.” “The parent learns about the child’s experi- her off the computer! C
Sounds healthy enough, but many par- ence and maybe a little about the technology.
ents are wondering, “Isn’t there a dangerous The child learns the guidelines or rules and
side to it?” the parents’ reasonable concerns.” Aliza Sherman is a Web pioneer, Internet
Yes, acknowledges Collier. But with some Collier offers these further tips. expert and avid blogger. She is the author
communication and guidance, parents can Be incognito. Suggest that your teen go of The Everything Blogging Book (Adams
help ensure that a child’s on-line experience by a nickname versus a real name, keep- Media, 2006). And she has her own
issafe. ing his or her identity anonymous to MySpace page at
“For younger teens the main risk is peer strangers but recognizable to friends. mediaegg.