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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Protecting your kids – all MySpace’s responsibility?

    Lila Burgoscolumnist
    Lila Burgos
    columnist

    After their children were lured and sexually assaulted by pedophiles on the social networking Web site www.myspace.com, a group of parents has decided to sue MySpace for negligence. But blaming MySpace for not protecting their children is just as logical as suing McDonald’s for making you fat.

    MySpace is only the middleman; the individual must take responsibility for his or her own actions. It is irrational to think that it’s MySpace’s ð- or Facebook’s, AOL Instant Messenger’s or any other Internet company’s responsibility – to protect other people’s children.

    While Internet sites should not in any way promote or make easier the process of finding victims for pedophiles, the responsibility for protecting children from Internet predators must come from the parents, the school system and law enforcement.

    The rage these parents feel is more than understandable, but suing MySpace – or News Corp., which owns it – for millions doesn’t really make sense. With the amount of Internet access available, and the multitude of different social-networking sites, their situation could just as easily occurred on any online chat room, instant messenger or the like.

    With the nauseating abundance of sex offenders – 550,000 are registered in the United States alone – one in five minors has already been sexually solicited via the Internet. So parents of the victims blame the lack of security measures, but there’s no way MySpace can check your ID.

    It’s easy to set up an account and these creeps aren’t morons. One of the victims was drawn in because the man claimed to be a senior at her high school. He had studied up on all the public info available.

    Dr. Michael Gemma, principal of Canyon del Oro High School here in Tucson, found out what MySpace was when a federal law enforcement unit informed administrators at a special meeting. He himself has a MySpace account to find out what issues are bothering students at school.

    As far as the lawsuit goes, he claims that, “”Ultimately, it’s the parents’ responsibility to protect and talk to their children,”” yet he concedes that the vast majority of parents don’t even know what MySpace is.

    Warnings against providing personal information have been given out by law enforcement and schools ever since I was in middle school. Suggestions such as keeping the computer in the living room and allowing a daily limited usage have been readily available. Protective software can easily be installed onto a child’s computer. The software is not new, nor is the information, but teenagers continue to be victimized.

    The bottom line is that the Internet is hard to control. Teenagers are difficult to control. If it’s considered cool, teenagers will find a way to get it regardless of warnings.

    Many law enforcement agencies have special units dedicated to cracking down on online sexual predators, but their hands are tied by bureaucracy. Laws such as the Child Online Protection Act have not been implemented because lawsuits claim that they infringe on free speech. The only people in a minor’s life who have full reign to make a difference are the child’s family members.

    Diana, a 14-year-old freshman at Canyon Del Oro High School, has been a member of MySpace for more than a year. Fully aware of the possible dangers, she enacted her own privacy restrictions on her Web page. Her parents had long ago sat down and explained why she should never disclose any information over the Internet.

    The conversation had been very candid about how exposing personal information could attract various sick individuals who could try to manipulate her. Her school had mentioned the obligatory “”don’t talk to strangers,”” but nobody else had gone into the depths her parents had.

    The truth is simple: There are sick, twisted, mentally unstable adults in this world who are out to harm. Children should be told that pedophiles might try to contact them over the Internet, and the children should be told what to do. Responsibility has to be taken by the parents and family in informing a minor how to conduct themselves in these situations.

    These kinds of discussions can’t be stalled; the reality of the situation is disgusting. As uncomfortable as it may be, no amount of money can take back the gruesome experience the victims of this lawsuit had to go through.

    Lila Burgos is an international studies junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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