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Chris Fane's Student Ministry News

A youth ministry blog consisting of a collection of articles and notes related to
student / youth ministry. Gathered by Chris Fane of egadideas.com

When Teens Tell All


Social Networking Sites Have Law Enforcement On Alert

(CBS) Do you have any idea what your kids are doing on their computer? Chances are they have a profile on a social networking site such as myspace.com, which has become popular among teens.

As part of a three-part series titled "Too Much Information," The Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith takes a fascinating look inside the teenage digital world.

Since Smith started working on this series a few months ago, myspace.com has more than doubled its membership. The site has also made lots of headlines, as a tool for both law enforcement and, unfortunately, online predators, to get an inside look into the world and the minds of teenagers.

Social networking communities such as myspace.com are the fastest growing teenage phenomenon ever. Myspace.com alone has more than 75 million users and kids are signing up in droves.

"Because it is a place where they all go and find each other, you'd have a hard time finding a teen who doesn't have a profile on MySpace," says Laura Groppe from the Girls Intelligence Agency.

Kids customize their profiles, a sort of encyclopedia of personal information including screen name, town, school, lots of thoughts and feelings, and pictures.

The allure? "They want to be there, they want to talk, they wanna find out what's happening," explains high school student Danielle Swain.

"You're away from your parents and you're in control of your own thing," adds student Vivian Robbins.

Kids post comments about each other's pictures, and jump from one profile to another through networks of friends.

"You're sitting there and you're like, 'I have an English paper. I have an English paper. 'Ooh, who's that?' " jokes student Katie Zacuto. "Within 24 hours, I was completely addicted."

Kids try on different identities, push the boundaries and sometimes just make stuff up.

"Myspace is just a way for kids to start bragging about, 'I get so drunk on the weekend,' and it's more interesting to say that than say, 'I make cookies with my grandma,' " says student Mary Ellen Handy.

Asked why there are lots of cleavage shots, the girls said, laughing, that those pictures get the most comments. "Guys like it. You always take a picture to get the most comments you can," explains Katie Zacuto.

"It shows you have friends. Like, if you don't get comments, no one likes you," says high school student Malory McDonald.

"Less clothes, more sexually provocative activities, more high-risk activities are gonna get attention," explains Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety.org.

And that's where the problems start. While MySpace feels like a private club to kids, it's a public place with breakable rules and limited enforcement that anyone with Internet access can see.

"There's lots of sexual predators who are using these sites like catalogues to find children," warns Aftab.

Kids who believe they're safe by hiding their identity can still give themselves away.

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