But who is she hanging out with And who is lurking online in the shadows of MySpace leering at the profiles of these vulnerable tweens While some have hailed MySpace as the greatest social experiment of the century, others have called it a Sears and Roebuck catalogue for pedophiles. Social networking has forever altered the modern childhood relationship. This revolution has left our youngest children, ages 8-13, open to the threat of exploitation and for these kids MySpace is a dangerous space to be in.
The greatest threat to these children who visit MySpace is the potential to be sexually solicited. A study conducted at the University of New Hampshire found that 1 in 5 children who have been online on a social network have experienced sexual solicitation (Mitchell, Finkelhor, and Wolak 3012). With the number of younger children creating a profile on MySpace skyrocketing1 this means millions of children are being exposed to this danger. As younger and younger children begin to logon and socialize, we put an age group at risk that are the least able to handle these abusive situations.
Though MySpace requests that all users must be age 14 or older, younger and younger children are going online. ...
Still, the children at risk get younger. A New Jersey Principal became concerned when "one of her 10-year-old students got an inappropriate message from "someone clearly an adult" ('"MySpace' Cadets"). This was on a school computer with close supervision. Younger children are able to deceive the registration process and could end up being molested or worse.
The fact is that MySpace does not verify age and there is no way they can. The BBC reported in March 2006 that two men were arrested in the US over sex charges after they allegedly used MySpace to illegally contact their victims ("MySpace Tightens Age Restrictions"). One girl was just 11 years old. Though MySpace has made a token effort to tighten their age restrictions, they are well aware of the loopholes in security. They have even begun to warn teenagers of the danger. Recently, "the site introduced adverts warning teenagers about the dangers of sexual predators on the web" and the BBC contends that, "At the moment, MySpace has no way of verifying the age of users" ("MySpace Tightens Age Restrictions."). Currently there is not way to prevent an 8-year-old from registering as an 18-year-old.
How easy is it for someone to pretend to be a different age or gender on MySpace According to computer security expert Richard Carlotti, anyone can do it. He says that MySpace currently uses the honor system and uses the information you supply it. He warns people that MySpace can never be safe for young children. He says, "If it is designed to be used by teen-agers, the security needs to be geared toward them, which means anyone with a 13 year old mind can subvert the system". The only way to increase the security is use biometric identification systems2 that are simply too expensive and