Blog: Our Take On Northview Students And MySpace

April 7, 2008

Sunday afternoon, I was reviewing my calendar for the week. On Monday morning, I was scheduled to attend one of two CyberSafety presentations from the Florida Attorney General’s Office at Northview High School. I googled for information about the attorney general’s CyberSafety program. I read a line that made me stop; it slammed me like the proverbial ton of bricks.

As many as one in five Florida youth will be solicited for sex online.

While we live in wonderful little communities in North Escambia, the MySpace pages and other online activities of our youth extend to the world. So while the potential here is perhaps not as great as some places in Florida, the potential for the unthinkable is real.

If you have not read our story about Northview student MySpace pages, stop reading here and click here to read the article first. If you have read the article, read on…

Why did we single out Northview High School? Simple. MySpace restricts users to age 14 or older, and students that age would be in high school. The only high school in the NorthEscambia.com coverage area is Northview. Our findings are not a Northview problem; in fact, I would venture to guess what we found would have been MUCH worse at any other public high school in this county. I want to stress that the bad examples we pointed out in our story were not typical of most Northview MySpace pages.

How popular is MySpace among Northview teens? I would venture to guess there are not very many without a MySpace. Almost every Northview teen MySpace page we viewed on Sunday had been updated within the last 48 hours. Many of the students were listed as “online” while we were viewing their pages.

I want to make a point to the parents (I’ll get to students below). I am in no way whatsoever saying you should run to your child and say “delete your MySpace”. I’m not going to tell you how to raise your child, but I feel strongly that’s not the answer. That would be like saying “some kids drink and drive, so you are never to drive a car again”. You can’t ignore it to make it go away. MySpace and online social networking is just as much a part of life now as hanging out at the burger place and cruising parking lots was when you were in high school. Repeat after me: Having a MySpace in itself is NOT evil. Doing the wrong thing with it is evil, but there’s nothing wrong with having a MySpace page.

I want to stress that most of the Northview student MySpace pages we found were not accessible to the public. Unless your student lets someone in, they don’t see what’s there. Many of the ones we found that were open to the public were not a problem. In fact, some were inspiring, and few were downright spiritual…discussing Jesus or youth meetings at church. I’d be downright proud as a parent of many them to know they had the freedom online to do and say what they want, but they chose the right things to do and say.

I personally know several of the Northview students who’s MySpace pages I saw. Or I know their parents. And knowing everything I know about them, there was nothing on their pages that would have clued anyone into anything they should not know.

Should you look for your child’s MySpace page? If it is a publicly accessible page, yes. If the rest of the world can see it, you should join in. If it is a private page? That’s where I’m not getting in your business. But I will say this…many Northview students have their parents in their “friends”, because they are just that — friends. But if not, should you demand to see it? Honestly, you as a parent will have to decide. I will explain to you that are not familiar with MySpace, that reading your child’s private MySpace would be very much like listening to each and every one of their phone conversations. Is that something you would do? It becomes a level of trust between you and your child.

And I know that many, many Northview students read NorthEscambia.com. Many copy NorthEscambia.com photos and videos for their MySpace pages. We appreciate all of you, and we are glad you like the site. I hope U and NorthEscambia.com can be like BFF. NALOPKT I think MySpace is KEWL and I wish it was around B4 I got out of school. I understand P911, PIR and POS. I know you are saying OMG and LOL, but that is TMI 4 ME.

But here’s the 411 (oops, sorry moms and dads, here’s the deal)…when your MySpace page has your name, your phone number and lots of ways to figure out were you are going to be when, along with your “I am a QT” pix (I mean picture), that IMHO is DUMB. k?

Let’s just be 100 percent honest and adult about this here…that’s like walking around a mall full of pervs (moms, dads: those are sexual predators) with sign around your neck with your name, address, phone number and a map to your house. Oh…you might as well pass out keys to your house and gas money at the same time. And don’t think it is just the girls that have to be careful…the same things happen to guys.

Be KEWL about it, and MySpace is well, KEWL.

Usually the biggest problem is a generation gap. Many parents just don’t get MySpace, or text messaging or any of that Internet stuff. Their kid might as well be speaking Russian.

And, dear students, IMHO, there are a few of you that just don’t get it. Like those in the news story that posted their phone numbers. Or just never thought about saying “I’ll meet you at Whataburger at 3:00 Tuesday afternoon”. There are just some sick people in this world. They know who you are, what you look like and where you will be. That’s creepy. And many more of you don’t realize that the moment you post something on the Internet, there is NO WAY to delete it forever. It’s stored on computers in all sorts of places, and it might come back to bite you one day. Everything on your MySpace might be seen by a college admissions rep. By the guy who is going to hire you for your dream job. By your future husband or wife. Or your kids might google you one day and find all that stuff, even if you delete it today.

Again, MySpace is not evil if you do the right, and the smart, thing with it.

I know I’ve gotten your attention. Probably made a few people mad. If your MySpace is featured in the news story, you might want to edit that thing like right now. If you are a parent and you are lost, this week is the week you will learn something. It’s not about parents controlling their kids. It’s not about spying or getting into their business. It’s about understanding.

We’ve brought up some issues and said some words that you may not have expected to find. But I’d rather all of us talk about this now as a community than for you to read the story I have to write when a youth in North Escambia becomes a victim. The words I’ll have to write then won’t be nearly as nice. I don’t want to go there.

Join us again tomorrow as we look at this issue some more. And let us know what you think by email at news@northescambia.com or use our online contact form.

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