Thursday, June 15, 2006

MyTake on Myspace

I was intrigued to read this article on Myspace, part of CBS's aforementioned series, especially the part about parents getting their own profiles--because over the past couple weeks, Blondechick 13 has been helping Papa Rooster set one up. She's had a page there for the last 6 months or so.

For any new readers coming over from CBS, we are a Christian family with 2 teens (and 4 younger ones). We homeschool all but our oldest son. We tend to be protective and strict with rules and boundaries (some of our media-viewing rules are described here). We've heard of the safety issues with MySpace--however, we've been surprised at the positives, and find a negative no one else seems to be talking about.

Initially, we felt comfortable letting our daughter set up a MySpace profile because so many of her theater friends already had them, and since I've worked so closely with these kids (very closely--I've applied stage makeup to most of the boys' faces!), we were comfortable that it was a wholesome group of "Friends" she'd be communicating with. It's set up as a non-public page; only people who’ve applied to be her “Friend” and have been accepted can view her space. Our rule is that she can only accept Friends, or Instant Message with people, that she has met in person—no friends of Friends, until she has actually met them. She says that in six months, no one has applied to be her Friend that she hasn’t met, and only once in a year of Instant Messaging, has anyone appeared not to be who she thinks they are. Since that one time, she now likes to "spot-check" with her friends, face to face, about IM conversations and MySpace comments, just to make sure.

Also, we have an open, very communicative relationship with our daughter, and she likes to show us stuff. Our computer is in the family room, where we can and do read over her shoulder on a regular basis, and she often shows us pictures she and others post on their pages. It really can be a creative outlet, and not just among the theater Friends! (And with our new Mac, she has a whole range of artistic “effects” she can manipulate photos with—I’ll have to post some sometime).

However, these kids’ favorite photography subjects are: themselves! To us, the greater negative than the safety issue is the narcissism that runs rampant on these pages. Some kids post pictures of themselves with friends, siblings, and pets, but many of them—our daughter included—like to put up their most glamorous-looking pictures (taken by themselves with a digital camera held out with one arm) and then reel in the complimentary comments. At least they are all very affirming to one another--I suppose that's worth a lot, actually, at this age--and they do usually include some hilarious shots of themselves as well.

As I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere, this is an age where kids, developmentally, are trying on different identities, and ironically, for us this is a safer and more easily monitored environment than the public school or hanging out at the movie theater. Computer time (on Myspace and Instant Messaging) is also a privilege that we can use as a reward for responsibility or as a consequence for its lack.

We’ve also found, incidentally, that the communication technologies like MySpace and IM’ing are less intrusive and more easily controlled than the phone, for example—one of many reasons why she does not have a cell phone. She gets a half hour every evening to IM, and usually 20 minutes or so on Myspace after she’s finished her schoolwork and/or chores. The rest of the time, she’s locked off the computer by a password--and mostly the boys don't call, since they can communicate in these other ways.

Another incidental note is that these technologies level the playing field a bit for some of the nice, shyer boys in her life—compared to calling a girl on the phone, it doesn’t take much courage to leave a comment on her profile or exchange a few instant messages—and also provides a social context that is less intense than a phone call. I’d say that it even removes some of the pressure when they are together at an event—I remember reading so much into every word, look or lack of any, and waiting and guessing for days or weeks in between times I would see “him”—but Blondechick communicates daily with her guy friends right along with her girl friends, in what seems to me like a less dramatic, probably healthier venue.

And now that Dad is one of her Friends…

(Perhaps it is the virtual equivalent of this strategy, recommended to Papa Rooster by my Texan cousin, who also has a beautiful 13 year old daughter: Get yourself a shotgun, and clean it in the front room whenever a boy is scheduled to arrive!)

1 comment:

HolyMama! said...

excellent post! you raised several points i've never considered - haven't had to yet!