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Social networks & responsibility

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Saturday February 17, 2007 )

I was heartened to see that a Texas judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against MySpace regarding a teenager who was assaulted by a person she met via the social networking giant.

I’m by no means trying to deny that it was a terrible crime and I do feel for the victim and family, but I can’t see MySpace being at fault – I see this more of a case of projected guilt on the family’s part.

Briefly, the story goes that a (very) underage girl posing as an 18 year old was attacked by a 19 year old she met via MySpace after their first date. The family then sued MySpace for negligence, fraud and negligent misrepresentation. Did the girl deserve this to happen? Certainly not, but…

Parents need to learn two simple things:

– watch your children’s online activities – always.
– educate your children about online dangers – regularly.

If you’re unable to monitor their activities effectively, they shouldn’t even be accessing the Internet.

There’s an African saying that goes along the lines of “it takes a whole village to raise a single child” and I totally agree; but in the modern western world and a litigation-mad society, if a stranger should reprimand someone’s child for incorrect behavior these days, the parents are likely to berate or sue the person who did so. People are *scared* to help keep others kids in line and that’s very sad.

As parents, we cannot shout from both sides of the fence. If we won’t let the “village” discipline our children, we can’t expect the village to monitor and always protect them, nor hold the village liable should they be harmed. I really pity school teachers these days who have a hell of a job keeping their students in line because of fear of litigation.

Parents, don’t believe for a minute that you know everything your kids are doing online, or that they know the difference from right and wrong or how to be cautious in a social networking environment. My parents, who were loving, kind and protective still had no idea of the mischief I was up to as a teenager until it was far too late. In a nutshell, trust your kids, sure.. to a degree. Be vigilant and monitor.

Just because a kid can use a mouse and put together a MySpace profile, doesn’t make them an online whizz. Kids are risk-takers, it comes with that age group. The Internet is *not* a babysitter or a toy. The Internet is a powerful tool, and like all tools it can be dangerous.

Even after the judge’s comments in this particular case that alluded to parental responsibility, the family’s lawyer is appealing the dismissal of one charge and refiling the other two charges in a different court.

Sheesh.

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