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Ten Questions about MySpace and Social Networking:

Even though my book MySpace for Moms and Dads won't be out until February, I received my first interview request from a teen who heard about the book. Her questions capture those of many concerned parents and teens, so I wanted to share them in hopes they may help your family or someone you know. I hope you find it helpful. ~ Connie

1. What is your view on MySpace? (Positive? Negative?)

 

MySpace is as full of potential as the people who use it and misuse it. It is full of both wonderful and terrible possibilities that must be managed well for good results. There are considerable dangers, but there are dangers with driving too and our culture has deemed the dangers worth learning to drive well. That may turn out to be the case with MySpace but it's too early to tell.

 

 

2. Do any of your kids have MySpace? (Do you check their pages? Have they reported any suspicious behavior to you?)

 

My two teenage kids both have more than one MySpace pages for various uses. My college age daughter chooses not to have a MySpace page. Check out Taylor's music page at www.MySpace.com/taylornealmusic (you don't need to be a MySpace member since this page is public, just type that into your internet browser address line) or Haley's page devoted to her mission work.


There you can see slide shows of her recent mission trip to Nigeria, a video of Nigerian Christians dancing as they give their offerings to God, and photos of her missions to Mexico and Nigeria. Haley's is at
www.MySpace.com/haleyfacemissions

 

I do check their pages. I am happy to report that they both put their dad and I on their list of heroes. I monitor what is going on in their lives through MySpace and find it VERY helpful in many ways. The two who use MySpace are quite selective about who they allow to be their MySpace "friends" so that cuts down on a lot of what might be negative.


They are also pretty savvy and know that if anyone bugs them they can and do block that user from their pages. They have not reported any "suspicious" behavior but have told me when some of their friends were "being lame" or giving them questionable comments / advice. Because I am on their friend's lists too, I can listen in on the comments they receive and if they are getting bad advice I can counter it with my good advice.

 

3. What is the summary of the book you are writing on MySpace?

 

MySpace for Moms and Dads is written to help any parent of a teen learn enough about MySpace to make their own decision about it. However, it will enable them to make that decision based on true information, not media scare tactics and rumors that may or may not be true and may be distorted by being taken out of context. It is written for any concerned parent, even those who are computer illiterate. It has more to do with understanding your teen than understanding the technology (based on my decade as a professional youth worker). It gives simple explanations of what MySpace is, why teens love it, how it has changed their social world, and the basics a parent needs to know to make sure their teen is operating safely online and in real life by learning enough about MySpace to monitor their interactions.

 

I included a "Busy Parent's Safety Check-Up Checklist" to allow parents who don't want to learn to use MySpace for themselves to make sure their teens are using it safely, if they choose to let them use it. The book also has a chapter on "MySpace for Families of Faith" that includes several Christian social networking sites. Hopefully it will help any parent concerned about MySpace decide with confidence where they will draw the line for each of their teenage children.

 

 

4. Do you think MySpace would be safe if people used it appropriately? (I.e. no inappropriate pics, names, addresses adding only those that you know already in the real world).

 

Yes, and for teens if they had an involved parent monitoring their use until they have proven their social networking skills. This is backed up by almost every expert on the subject I interviewed, including Mark Klass (whose daughter Polly was murdered) and representatives of the Sacramento Sheriff's Department who specialize in Cyber-Safety. As one officer -- Officer Jan Hoganson -- told me, "They are going to gather somewhere, at the mall or on MySpace. At least with MySpace an involved parent can keep track of what they are doing, saying, and planning."

 

5. Do you have a MySpace? Yes, I have a personal MySpace page at www.MySpace.com/conniewneal and I have set up a new page designed just for the readers of my book where they can go to try out the things I talk about in the book; that is at www.MySpace.com/momsanddads. We have the picture up and basics, but that's about it.

 

6. How do you think MySpace affects our society? How do you think it affects different generations?

 

In general it is too soon to tell how it will effect our society long term. However, before Rupert Murdoch spent $580 million dollars to buy MySpace and its parent company

He was asked by a Reuter's reporter,

"What surprised you most about the MySpace experience?"

His answer? "The speed at which it has grown. . . . And it just grows faster and faster every week. . . . MySpace demonstrated what we felt but now really drives it into us that the world has really changed that the average person who is computer proficient is self-empowered in their lives in a way they never have [been] before"[1]

I agree that "the world has really changed" BIG TIME with this new advancement in interactive use of the internet for social networking. How we manage this change remains to be seen. However, I deeply believe that it will progress better if every concerned parent would get involved enough to learn about it, use it to ward off the predators instead of allowing predators and would-be evil doers free reign of this new and powerful medium of communication.


 

 

7. How do you feel about privacy in regards to MySpace? (Everything public; there have been a few instances in the news where kids got in trouble by police forces because of the content of their MySpace pages.)

 

    There are many ways a MySpace user can enhance their privacy and this is VERY important for the sake of safety. The most basic way is to go into your account settings and set your profile to private or friends only, then make sure that you are careful about who you let onto your friend's list. It is also important for parents to make sure that their teens are not putting down false ages. MySpace has privacy protections in place that are designed to protect younger teens from potential predators, but these don't work if the teen says their age is 99. (You can find privacy information through the hyper link "Privacy" at the bottom of the MySpace home page. Also, if parents (and grandparents) were watching what their own kids were posting on MySpace there wouldn't be as much for the police to catch.

 

8. Do you believe parents should monitor their teen's MySpace pages?

 

Absolutely, parents need to monitor their teen's social networking UNTIL the teen demonstrates responsible social networking and safety skills. The goal should be like the goal of driver's training. First the parent is right there watching almost every move to make sure the teen stays safe (but hopefully not making too much noise to attract attention from the teen's friends); then as the teen shows that she understands and implements the safety tips, the parent can check in occasionally (that's why I designed the Busy Parent's Safety Checklist), as the teen demonstrates more and more social and technological responsibility the parent can check on them less and less. If the teen violates agreed upon rules, the degree of parental oversight needs to increase. The goal, in my mind, is to train up our teens to be responsible and safe cyber socializers before they leave our homes. If not us, who? If not while they are in our home and under our authority, when?

 

9. What prompted you to write this book?

 

I took a road trip last summer with Taylor (17) and Haley (15) up to the Pacific Northwest. Along the way we stopped to visit family, their friend and her parents, a college Taylor is checking out. Everywhere we went MySpace came up in the conversation. Over and over, without me bringing up the subject, the parents were asking each other, "Do you let your teen go on MySpace?" and no matter whether the parent answered yes or no, no one seemed confident in their decision. They were very concerned, but none were confident. The ones who said yes, worried they were leaving their teens open to danger, but didn't know enough about it to even know how to check it out. The ones who said no worried that they were depriving their teens of something they wanted and something that might be important to their social standing. So, basically I saw a need. I checked Amazon.com and saw that there were a few books but most were by computer / techie type people. There was no book that focused on the parent/teen relationship, nor was there any book that addressed issues of concern to families of faith. So I found a publisher to publish it, and wrote it (since this is what I do professionally anyway).

 

10. What do you think is in the future for MySpace?

 

I think MySpace and other social networking sites will continue to revolutionize the way people (not just teens) interact and relate to each other. There is tremendous power here. It will be used; whether it is used for good or evil will have much to do with whether those using it are do-gooders or evil-doers. Currently there are hundreds of social networking sites. Among them MySpace has put the most stringent safety precautions into place (in response to the public outcry and scrutiny). There will soon be thousands, including many new Christian MySpace alternatives (see below). As with any other revolutionary technology, people who've seen how useful it is are not going to go back to not using it. So the key is going to be that people need to learn to use it well.

 

Check out these Christian "MySpace alternatives":

www.mypraize.com

www.Xianz.com

www.meetfish.com


 

[1] Murdoch, Rupert, Hollywood Reporter, Reuters, 7/25/06 also accessed at http://www.woopidoo.com/biography/rupert-murdoch/MySpace.htm 10/25/06

 

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