MySpace in the Media

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

Dear Media,

On behalf of the blogosphere, thank you for your concern for the safety of America’s youth, and your constant, unending vilification of the popular social networking website MySpace. As we all know (thanks to you), devious pedophiles trawl MySpace for minors and lure them into their sexual traps. They often pose as teenagers themselves; gaining the trust of our children so they can later exploit them.

It occurs to me that, while focusing on MySpace, you have missed several other ways that sexual predators can molest our children. So, to help in the fight against terror freedom of expression pedophiles, here are a few other places besides MySpace into which you might want to check:

The rest of the internet. Did you know that the internet has been around since, like, the 1950s? I know, right? Porn has been traded online since the 1980s via BBSes, but in 1991, the World Wide Web really brought it to the masses. It was around that same time that internet predators really got moving. Can you believe the public have been uninformed for so long? I’m actually surprised that it took you so long to report on this! But no matter, now we know better, thanks to you. I would attempt to list typical places to look online for internet predators, but pretty much everywhere you look, there will be one lurking, so such a list is impractical.

Huge companies in the public eye. Did you know that big companies such as Google, Microsoft, America Online, and Yahoo! all help pedophiles? It’s true! They provide chat software such as Google Talk, MSN Messenger, AIM, and Yahoo! Messenger, which allow 40 year old men to pretend to be 14 year old girls! They can then lure young boys to their homes so they can touch them in their bathing suit areas. Worst of all, this chat software is free and easy to download! Perhaps an in-depth investigative report will help stop this injustice.

Jail. Some sexual deviants may be hiding in jail.

Real life. You probably thought that the internet was the only place that pedophiles could hunt for their prey, but you should be aware of a different, equally sinister type of offender: the offline predator! That’s right, men and women who want to take advantage of our children are disguised as normal people! They disguise themselves to look like you and me. Their disguises are often so convincing, that if they are caught, their neighbors describe them as having been, “nice”, “quiet”, and having “seemed to normal”. There’s nowhere these offline predators won’t hide. They may be at your office, your grocery store, or even in our boys’ locker rooms!

America’s youth. Are you sitting down? Good, because what I’m about to tell you is potentially shocking. Underage kids are having sex with other underage kids. I know, you don’t want to believe me, but it’s true. A few of you have even reported on it. I commend your efforts, but it’s simply not enough. Too few people realise that their children’s friends could be sexual deviants, enraged with lust, their loins ablaze with horny horniness. You and I both know what kind of impulse control teenagers have, so it’s up to parents to never leave their children alone with their friends. Ever. For any reason.

So, media, with such a vast and bountiful plethora of places to find pedophiles, please stop naming MySpace as if it were the only place that children are vulnerable to attack. Your job is to inform the public, so get going! Now! I expect to see something soon, say, 400 words? I’ll expect your reports in my newspapers and on my TV by Friday.

Thank you in advance,

Thomas J. Brown

On a serious note, MySpace (which I am defending only because it’s being unfairly targeted) is not the problem. As I hope I was able to point out, this danger has always existed. In fact, children today are probably safer than they ever have been (or, at least, in no more danger than children of yesteryear).

The problem doesn’t stem from increased connectivity or the ease with which personal information can be collected, stored, sorted, and shared. The real problem lies with the parents. Our parents told us a thousand times never to talk to strangers. They surely hadn’t anticipated that we would meet so many online, but the mantra still rings true (more or less).

Actually, don’t talk to strangers is a bit harsh. How about, don’t share personal information with strangers. One of the greatest aspects of the internet is that when you get online, you can be anyone you want to be. Dorky kids can be cool, cool kids can be dorky, and neither has to worry about what their real life friends and family think.

Strangers on the internet aren’t that scary because they are faceless. They often have unrealistic names and they often claim to live far away. So why do kids share personal information with these people? Because they usually don’t judge. A kid can tell a stranger a secret without worrying about that secret coming back to haunt her. Parents need to realise that the only way to keep their kids safe is to get involved and communicate.

And that means actually talking to them about their lives and having an open, honest conversation about the dangers of world, not just telling them not to talk to strangers.

And seriously, media, stop talking about MySpace. Not only is it tired and predictable, but it’s clear that you just don’t get it.

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