Two stories I want to share with you. First, as some of you know, my children have e-mail accounts through Kidmail.net, one of the services I recommend for parents. Thanks to Kidmail's filtering system, I get copies of the e-mails my kids get and I get an opportunity to filter out messages from new/unknown addresses when they come in. In the past week, my soon to be 13 year old daughter's inbox has been flooded with e-mails from MySpace. She does not have a MySpace account (nor is she even interested in having one) so one might ask, why is she getting e-mails from MySpace if she doesn't have an account? One of her friends apparently has setup an account and listed my daughter's e-mail address as a friend he/she wants to invite to join MySpace. Great. Not only does this open my daughter's e-mail account up to loads of spam, but it also posts her private e-mail address on a public forum for anyone to see. I am in the process of trying to find out which of my daughter's friends did this and ask the parents to have their child remove my daughter's address from their page. However, the die is cast...though the e-mail address won't be posted any longer, my daughter will continue to get MySpace spam indefinitely. Once they get a hold of your address, it's over. The nice thing is Kidmail allows me to filter that kind of spam out so she will never see it (though it creates more work for me).
As much of a pain as this experience is and will be for me, it's nothing compared to what happened to another child at my kid's school. This poor young man (a 7th grader) had an account set up on MySpace on his behalf without him knowing. A group of boys who don't like this poor kid set up a MySpace page, complete with pictures of the boy and his e-mail address, saying horrible, untruthful things. Just like people slowing down to gawk at a car wreck, the site was so bad that it gained a bit of a local cult following and had many people viewing it. It wasn't until the site had been up for a month that it was noticed by someone responsible and actions were taken to remove the page. Kudos to my kids' school for stepping up and intervening, despite the fact that none of the mischief happened on school grounds. The kids who made the site were punished and the site was taken down. But the damage was done.
So before you sit back and say "my kid would never," remember that they don't have to. There are plenty of other people out there to do it for them.