A Parent Learns About MySpace

Chances are that once your kids know you're hanging out where they're hanging out, they'll clean up their act. At the very least, have your child lock his or her profile. Locked profiles only allow friends whom they have invited to communicate with them to visit. And yes, I tried to access my son's profile. Such a good boy, it was locked.

Freedom to Blog?

Some schools have banned kids from blogging.

Pope John the 23rd High School in Sparta, N.J., made headlines when it banned kids from using MySpace. The Rev. Keiran McHugh says he called an assembly and told students they were not to post profiles on the site either at school or at home.

"There was tremendous support from the parents once they started to discover and see the kind of material that was on the spaces. They said, 'Wow.'"

Students like Alyssa Lohr were outraged at first, but then, when faced with the concern about predators and character assassinations, she reconsidered.

"I realize it was probably the right thing to do because girls are starting to get hurt and meeting people on MySpace that they don't even know. And it is becoming really dangerous."

Can a School Ban Blogging?

Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says a private school can.

"Students are protected by the First Amendment," he said. "Though it is important to recognize that the First Amendment protects you against public school censorship, it protects you against the government. So activities by a private school come under a different scenario."

Opsahl warns that while free speech may allow you to write and post anything you want today, you may regret it later.

"People should realize that everything they say on their blog can be read by millions of people," he warned. "The people they intend it for as well as anybody else who comes along. And it may be archived for many years even after their thoughts and opinions may change."

Who Knows and Who's Profiting

Another sobering piece of news for kids. Raskin said that "college admissions counselors and guidance counselors and law enforcement officials all use this as a tool now."

Tell your kids that, just like the old paper version of a locked diary, anything they don't want anyone to see should be locked up tight.

In its defense, MySpace says it employs a dedicated team that does nothing but look at all 1.5 million images uploaded each day, checking for inappropriate photos, including pornography. Despite its best efforts, MySpace says, some illicit images still get posted online.

In the two years since it was launched, MySpace has received 2.5 times the traffic of Google, with more than 50 million registered users.

Last year, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought MySpace for $580 million in cash. Because it caters to a demographic with lots of cash to spend, marketers are beating down the door trying to cash in.

One twist: TV producers are creating MySpace profiles for fictional TV characters.

FX's "Nip/Tuck" recently revealed the identity of its serial rapist known as "The Carver." Before he was unmasked, the character had his own blog that viewers could log onto to learn even more about the character than was revealed on TV.

Marketers are also teaming up with TV producers to create original Web content, hoping to generate buzz among the generation that spends. Fox has announced that it will produce original episodes of its hit show "Family Guy" exclusively for the Web. Because Fox is owned by News Corp., you can bet Stewie will soon be blogging on MySpace.

And consider this: Just when you thought you'd never be able to pry the cell phone out of your teenager's text-messaging fingers, a new service called MySpace Mobile is expected to launch this spring. That's right, no computer needed. Teens will soon be blogging in between (we can only hope) their classes.

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