It's easy to blame a computer or program or even a social networking site for all the evils in the world. In fact, the last time I yelled at my computer, and told it to stop screwing up, you know how it replied?
It just sat there and did nothing. Yep, that's the obvious sign of a guilty party.
So when I noticed recently that MySpace is working with 49 states to conjure up a safety plan, I knew instantly that the internets would be safe again from criminals, pedophiles, aliens, telemarketers and, of course, the Transformers' nemesis, the Decepticons. After all, if everyone works together to combat the forces of spam, porn and craziness, the world will be a beautiful place, with bunnies and rainbows for all to see, right?
Then I realized that Texas is the one state not involved. No problem there ... no one messes with Texas anyway.
But then I started thinking about the safeguards and how much of an effect they would have on MySpace. One option is to allow kids to use a parent's email address when signing up. But a teenager can pretty quickly sign up for a new email address and get around this.
Another check put into place would be to keep the profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds hidden for public consumption ... except that someone in that age range can obviously lie about their age (which is what is done now, considering you can be 10 and just say you are 99).
I'm all for fighting against the bad guys. But nearly every one of these "safeguards" doesn't. Instead, this items only make it more difficult for kids to maneuver around obstacles to do what they want to do, which is play on MySpace. To a certain extent, there's nothing wrong with that, as long as they play by the rules. And those rules start with the simplest: Don't be an idiot.
Teenagers are bound to do silly, embarrassing and moronic things. MySpace can guard against some of that, but it's not the computer system's job to babysit. Parents and guardians should bear some of this responsibility. Maybe these people have given up attempting to lay down the rules because their kids act just like computers do: They don't respond. So, concerned parent, who are you going to blame for that?