Can MySpace be good for kids?
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Make Sure Your Tween Knows How to Stay Safe Online
Have your child follow these basic rules (adapted from Safeteens.com):
1. Never reveal your identity or identifying details.
2. Never get together with someone you've met online unless you've discussed it with your parents. If your parents give their permission, arrange to meet in a public place and bring along a trusted adult.
3. Never respond to messages that make you uncomfortable.
4. Talk to your parents about these ground rules, and any others they might have, before going online.
By Marian Wilde , GreatSchools Staff
The good ...
Tweens and teens, typically sensitive to peer judgments, often use MySpace to experiment with their self-image by creating and constantly updating their profiles. "Young people create virtual representations of themselves and hang out with their friends' virtual representations," says Hinduja. "They're able to share with each other through this functionality despite being in different locations."
Larry Magid, co-author with Anne Collier of the recently published 2007 book MySpace Unraveled: A Parent's Guide to Teen Social Networking, and co-director with Collier of BlogSafety.com, believes that the experimentation kids do online is healthy. "They might explore music outside of their comfort level. Or they may be creative and expressive, in a way that doesn't reveal personal information, by saying something that isn't popular."
Creating a profile page requires thought and creativity. "Kids learn a little bit about Web development, how to link and upload files, and about fonts and layout," says Hinduja. "They construct their thoughts and feelings in a written form on blogs and in their comments. They post poems, stories and journal entries, and this develops their critical thinking and self-reflection."
But what about the text-messaging shorthand that drives some adults crazy? "I don't see the shorthand being used across most pages," says Hinduja.
Donna Alvermann, distinguished research professor of language and literacy education at the University of Georgia, and a specialist on Web literacy and adolescence, believes many youth are more motivated to read when they're on the Internet. "I'm investigating students who are not good readers in school - and not very interested in school - but who can do all this stuff on the Internet and who look very competent outside of school." Alvermann has found that the motivation and engagement provided by the Internet can be the key to an otherwise poor student's development as a reader.
"We usually go on the Web when there's something we want to know. That's not always present for school assignments," says Alvermann. "Kids are reading and researching what they're interested in when they're on the Internet outside of school time. Kids can get at information equally as important as their school assignments. Quite frankly, sometimes it's more exciting what they can do and how they can grow on their own."
Kids should still use books to back up what they find on the Web, she says. "There's lots of visual information on the Internet, but books will never go away. There will always be books propped up against the computer."
Learning to read images and glitzy visuals on the Internet is part of learning to read Web sites critically. "This is actually a high-level skill," says Alvermann, "For example, a kid who is researching Martin Luther King might stumble across a Ku Klux Klan site. This kid needs to learn that although the site is interesting visually, much of the information might not be trustworthy."