OK, so experimenting with who they are is typical teenage fare.
"But it's public," you may say.
Exactly. That's what teen social networkers have been in denial about: that we parents can actually watch them at this giant party.
Adults aren't the only ones who have been affected by all the media coverage of MySpace, however. Teens are becoming very aware that this isn't a truly private space where they can let their hair down away from adult scrutiny.
This growing awareness is both good and bad from a parent's perspective. The really good news is that kids are getting smarter. They know that what they post on MySpace and other social-networking sites can be exploited by peers and strangers, and that they can lose control of what they upload. Comments, photos, and videos can be copied and pasted in other Web sites, shared on file-sharing networks, and passed around in IMs and emails.
Key Parenting Point
If you suspect that your kids don't know, by all means ask them if they're careful about what they say and upload on MySpace, and whether they've been harassed by peers or strangers and how they handled it.
The bad news about this growing awareness of adult scrutiny is that young MySpace users may just move on. Although it might seem strange to consider this bad news, keep in mind that there are zillions of other social-networking sites where kids can go (Figures 1.3 and 1.4). And many of these sites are less accountable, at least to shareholders. In fact, some of them, like myYearbook.com, are teeny private companies started by high-school students on their spring break (Figure 1.5). All these options make it all the more difficult for parents to keep track of their teens' online activities. And the number of these sites is only increasing.
Figure 1.3. Xanga is No. 2 in popularity among 12- to 17-year-olds, according to the latest figures from online research firm eMarketer.
Figure 1.4. Facebook, in eMarketer's Top 6 social-networking sites, is represented on every four-year college and university campus in the United States.
Figure 1.5. The site myYearbook, No. 4 on the comScore Media Metrix list in December '05, was started by high-school students on their spring break.