Dark Alleys, Dollars and Did She Really Say That?

darkalleyMySpace wants us to stand up and take notice of its new safety initiative.  Is this something meaningful or just more lip service?  Let’s take a look.

The big plan, it seems, is to publish a guide on safety tips, get Seventeen magazine and the National School Board Association to tag along, and put a link to these safety tips at the bottom of every MySpace page.  Oh, and they plan to distribute copies of the guide to schools all over the United States.

Yep, a guide with some safety tips will stop those murderers and pedophiles dead in their tracks.

For one thing, don’t most schools ban MySpace under the so-called MySpace law?  If so, are teachers going to spend time going over how to do safely what students are not permitted to do at all?

This is just more lip service, with some conscripted allies along to muddy the water a little.  I’d love to know the basis on which Seventeen magazine and, particularly, the National School Board Association lent their names to this effort.

In the flurry of lip service one very funny thing happened.  Seventeen magazine’s editor-in-chief opened her mouth and out came these words: “My mom was the person who told me not to walk down the dark alley by myself, not the person who created the dark alley.”

Well, aside from the fact that she just compared MySpace to a dark alley, here are a couple of differences between that dark alley and MySpace that come to mind:

(1) that dark alley doesn’t make millions or billions of dollars by enticing kids to walk down it;

(2) that dark alley isn’t owned and operated by a major media company;

(3) that dark alley is located in some outside place, likely far from home, as opposed to inside every computer in the world.

There are lots more differences, but you get my drift.

I’m all about educating kids.  And I’m all about monitoring what your kids do online.

You can’t expect MySpace, even if it is making millions and billions of dollars, to guarantee a safe environment.  Parents have to monitor and stay actively involved in their kids’ online activities.

But for some company that makes millions or billions of dollars by providing the so-called dark alley to take the position that it’s up to mom to protect the kids from said dark alley…well, that’s just about the most absurd thing I have ever heard.

MySpace should take a few of those millions or billions of dollars and hire hordes of people whose job consists of nothing other than surfing around MySpace all day and night, looking for both potential troublemakers as well as inappropriate content and personal information.

Or maybe require parental approval for people under 18 to sign up.

The dirty little secret, of course, is that if MySpace did all of that, its coveted user base, many of whom think they want a place away from mom and dad where the rules are looser, would cry foul and, perhaps, spend less time clicking those lucrative ads.

The fact remains, however, that parents expect MySpace to do a lot more than it seems willing to do in this regard.  Eventually, the smoke and mirrors will fail and congress and/or lawyers will press the issue.

In sum, you can do a lot more than MySpace seems to be willing to do and still rely on parents to be vigilant. So far, unfortunately, MySpace seems to want to do as little as possible while giving lip service to the problem.