A lesson for your childrenBy Jonathan Stromberg
On the 10th of April an video article on MSN web site (http://video.msn.com/v/us/v.htm?f=msnhome) described an experiment that needs to be brought the attention of all parents whose children use the Internet.
The article was about the web site myspace.com and the possible consequences associated with its use by children.
The site launched in 2003, initially for musicians but it quickly spread to become the biggest social network site there is, having more than 60 million users. The site enables you to prepare your own personal web page profiling yourself and use it to share information with other people on the web site.
At its best it is used by children and teenagers to keep in touch with friends and to express their creativity. However, due to the ease of access to information that it affords, predators search through the site looking for children and teenagers with who they can share stories and pictures with, and later on perhaps even meet..
The site requires users to be at least 14, but it is very easy to pretend to be old enough to gain access, whatever age you are.
The site is a sexual predators dream; and a parents worse nightmare.
In the experiment a detective; a male in his 40's, set up a page on myspace.com and pretended to be a teenager, using this guise to meet teenage girls. he called himself Matt, said that he was new to town and 19 years old.
The aim of the experiment was to see how many girls he could contact and what kind of information they would willingly give out online. He contacted teenagers whose parents were aware of the experiment, in order to answer the question; would your child let a predator into her online world? The parents never dreamed that their daughters would.
The experiment was carried out in in middle town Connecticut. The town is of particular interest terms of the experiment because it was the scene of a series of incidents earlier this year in which 7 girls were sexually assaulted by men met that they had met on myspace.com.
Since then the town had carried out safety Internet workshops for parents, and the dangers had been brought to the attention of children and teenagers.
Matt became instantly popular. In less than 2 weeks he obtained more than 100 friends.
He was able to view a certain amount of information about each person, and then if he was accepted by them as a personal friend, he was was given access to their full profile and all the private information that they had posted on their profile. This included their names, their schools, their ages, and where they hang out. Half of his new 'friends' let him in with no questions asked whatsoever.
After a few days, during a live chat session, one girl posted the response *hugs,* shocking her mother who was observing the experiment in real time.
After it was established how easy it was to obtain information from these girls, 3 of them were chosen to meet the real Matt, in the hope that it would be a wake up to call to them.
The 3 girls entered the room, and were naturally very surprised to see that Matt wasn't the 19 year old that he made out to be.
The girls were asked if they think they protect themselves when talking with and sharing information with strangers on myspace.com. In their own minds they thought that they had given Matt very little information about themselves, but in reality Matt had found out the following.
He had found out the name and birthday of the first girl, as well as an enormous amount of personally sensitive information on a 330 question survey that she had filled in and made available.
The second girl had made the mistake of, a week before, sending out a bulletin saying where she was going to go and when....it would have been very easy for Matt to have found her. Matt had got her full name too.
The third girl had even mentioned that she would like to meet him.
Many children give out much more, such as pictures, sometimes which even can be provocative in nature.
Such experiments such as these are alerting parents to the fact that it is their responsibility to be more vigilant, and to take some kind of control over their child's use of the computer.
The company myspace.com dedicates a third of its staff; 90 people, to monitoring the pages for pornography and underage users. But that is very little considering there are 63 million profiles; a figure that increases every day.
After the meeting with Matt the girls went back to their profiles on myspace.come, and erased their personal info. Then they checked all their online 'friends' to make sure that there were no more Matts lurking in the background. They are grateful for the lesson in danger. But not all children are lucky enough to learn from their mistakes in this way. For some it might only come when its too late.
SoftForYou.com is the antidote to sites such as myspace.com and a must for parents. It is a software company specializing in advanced parental control and Internet filtering and monitoring programs for your home computer.
iProtectYou will put you in control of the Internet; empowering you to limit your child's use in a way specifically tailored to your needs. The application of this program will significantly reduce the dangers associated with the Internet, and enable your children to gain from the many benefits the Internet offers, whilst shielding them from potential harm.
Chronager will give you control not only of your child's use of the Internet, but of the computer as a whole. You can restrict and set the times when all of the individual elements associated with computer use can be accessed. Thus, you will have control over when your child can use the CD/DVD ROM and removable disks, when he or she can use particular programs (for gaming, instant messaging and watching movies,) when he or she can access the Internet, and when he or she will be allowed access to the computer as a whole.
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