MySpace is a hugely popular “social networking service”, a website providing a virtual community of likeminded people a platform on which they can communicate on just about any subject. Contact can be verbal, by chat, instant messages, blogs or even video conferences. MySpace is particularly aimed at the younger generation from age 14. It is published on Internet in association with Seventeen, an American magazine for teenage girls that first appeared in 1944 and is still one of the most popular of its kind today.
MySpace was founded in 2003 by Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolf, graduates of different Californian universities. It was acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in 2005, which bought out Intermix, the MySpace parent company, for a sum reputed to be half-a-billion US Dollars. In 2006, MySpace users passed the 100 million mark, and the site reached pole position as the most visited Internet site in the USA.
Firm favourite with teenagers
MySpace is a free service. Visitors can simply browse through the website while members can create personal online profiles, like webpages, reflecting their personality and interests, and communicate with old and new friends. The result is an enormous, globally-linked chain of people. Following contact to friends' profiles, members can maintain contacts by leaving messages, chatting, playing games, planning events etc. Members can upload pictures to further personalize their profiles and express their opinions through blogs. The site is also a platform for posting the personal talents of musicians, film makers, photographers and artists of all kinds. However, MySpace services are purely for the personal use of its members and commercial use is prohibited. Any violation leads to immediate banning from the service.
MySpace has become a favourite online destination for teenagers. It’s a fun site for those who want to be a part of the young “in crowd”. However, as such it also attracts many underage kids keen to join this cool new scene.
Pitfalls of posting
The fact that MySpace is so popular with youngsters has led to police and education authorities running information campaigns to warn parents of the possible dangers of using these sites. Paedophiles and those preying on young people surf on this type of site, where personal information is so easy to obtain. MySpace does have certain restrictions and endeavours to provide protection for youngsters.
MySpace strives to inform users of the pitfalls of using its and similar sites. If a user’s profile is not set to private, it can be accessed by all and sundry. Hence personal details such as addresses, phone numbers, schools attended, workplace, favourite haunts etc. should never be posted for all to see. As MySpace says: “If you wouldn’t share it with a creepy stranger on the street, don’t post it on MySpace!”
Profiles of members under age 16 are set by default so that access and contact can only be made by members with whom the youngsters are already familiar.
An adult cannot contact a member under age 16 unless he knows the member’s last name or e-mail address.
Members under 18 are prevented from joining in group discussions on certain topics. In addition, safety tips aimed at young members appear as the site is browsed.
MySpace also claims that its employees proactively investigate possible underage users, and profiles of members found to be below age 14 are deleted.
A positive revolution?
MySpace is revolutionizing the way in which today’s youngsters communicate with each other worldwide. And who knows, perhaps this online global interaction between young people may ultimately lead to positive social change.