MySpace.Com and Other Social Networking Sites: Ideas for Keeping Children Safe by Susan Hanley Kosse (University of Louisville- Louis D. Brandeis School of Law)

Abstract: A growing number of disturbing incidents involving minors as victims of sexual solicitation, assault and even murder have been traced to a fairly new type of Internet communication, social networking sites. These sites, hugely popular with teens, provide unique and largely independent and unsupervised channels of self expression and socialization for children. Yet the sites also present real dangers to today’s youth, the most serious being child victimization by sexual predators. … The Article concludes by offering additional solutions for keeping children safe based on current research. A multi-faceted approach is necessary based on different causes of risk taking. Social networking sites should be encouraged to segregate different age groups but the burden should not be theirs alone. To further promote segregating age groups, children and adults should be punished for misrepresenting their age when registering on social networking sites. Record companies used a fear of punishment strategy when deciding to sue individual file sharers for copyright infringement. Only when the risk of punishment outweighed the benefits of the peer-to-peer sharing option did behavior change. These results offer hope that a similar strategy with social networking sites may be effective in changing teens’ behavior.

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