Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Will Congress ban My Space? The latest issue of BusinessWeek Online reports on a new bill in Congress that would ban MySpace and other social networking sites from being used in schools. According to BW,
The campaign to crowd out predators from MySpace.com is gathering steam in Washington. House of Representatives lawmakers proposed a bill on May 9 that would block access to social networks and Internet chat rooms in most federally funded schools and libraries.
"The legislation is aimed at "protecting children from terrible individuals who would aim to use Facebook and MySpace to harm young children," says Michael Conallen, chief of staff to Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who sponsored the bill. The idea? Keeping kids and teens off potentially dangerous sites, at least on public school and library time -- not to mention keeping would-be offenders from using library terminals for nefarious deeds.
Critics note the bill has many problems. As currently written, it could potentially ban search sites such as Yahoo! and Google. The article notes:
For starters, it's got too general a definition of sites that should be banned, says Markham Erickson, general council of the Net Coalition, a Washington lobby representing Internet companies. The Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) defines the restricted areas as those that allow "users to create Web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users" and offer "a mechanism of communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, e-mail, or instant messenger."
The article generated a ton of comments on the BW blog. Here's one:
Myspace is already blocked in our school district and students just use proxy sites etc. to get around it. There is no way to permanently block a Web site from kids.
And another one:
This is another great example of politicians proposing legislation that sounds good because it's the politically correct thing to do. But in the long run it will have absolutely zero positive impact or should I say intended impact. The fact is, as one reader pointed out, the kids invented the stupid thing to begin with! Parents, you need to take responsibility for raising and nurturing your children with values that will influence the choices they make and the friends they keep. The answer is not in more or less rights, but in greater responsibility from parents and politicians alike. Helloooo!

As a dad with two kids who frequenly go online, banning MySpace at school doesn't seem like much of a solution. When parents or administrators "ban" things, it can backfire and make the object all the more attractive to thrill-seeking teenagers. The vast majority of kids' web use occurs at home and at friends' houses, generally with little direct adult supervision. We need to educate our kids, make them understand and appreciate risks and trust them to act in their own best interest.


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