MySpace.com to Put the Ball Back in the Parental Court
In what analysts are calling a smart move, MySpace.com has announced that it is developing a new software that will give parents a "window" into what their children are putting on their online community profiles. MySpace.com, the popular social networking site that has come under fire from both parental organizations and the American government alike, has been working hard to develop new ways to keep minors who use the website "safe."
But how safe can any minor be on a site that puts its users in community connection with millions of users worldwide? As with other networking tools - instant messaging, online chat and even e-mail - parents have a duty to monitor their own child's usage of these programs to protect them from online predators and cyber-abuse.
The new monitoring software is meant to be installed by parents on a home computer to view what any MySpace user on that computer lists as his or her profile name, age and location - giving parents a "window" into the full use of the MySpace community by its family members. This will help many parents whose children have been "smart enough" to create alternate profiles - one to show mom and grandma, and another to really use when talking to friends and meeting strangers online. The software doesn't give parents access to the content of the MySpace profiles - and it is not a "spy tool" per say in that the program does notify each user that their profiles are being monitored by their parents or guardians.
The program - which is currently code-named Zephyr - does not have a current release date. News Corp., the company that owns MySpace.com, has been working tirelessly to find a solution to allegations that the social network "endangers teenagers' safety" because it makes it easy to share personal information over the Internet.
It is expected that MySpace will receive criticism from privacy advocates who claim Zephyr is "invasive" and from parents, who will likely always claim that it doesn't do enough. But MySpace.com isn't totally taking mom and dad's side on the issue. In fact, its chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam said "one of our goals is to empower parents to engage in conversation with their teens about Internet safety." Zephyr will "empower parents" by giving them insight into whether their kids are using fake names, lying about their ages, creating multiple accounts or giving out too much details about where they live, the school they go to and where they hang out. Nigam added, "By enabling parents to 'check' their teen's age and have conversations, if necessary, with their teens to use the appropriate age, we are creating an even safer community for our users."