Wednesday, June 29, 2005

MySpace.......Internet Crack for the 21st Century

I was walking in the library a little over a year ago when I saw a person writing in a personal blog called MySpace.com. When I came back this year, I found that MySpace has absolutely exploded onto the Junior High and High School scene. Over 80% of the Seniors in my class had a MySpace site by the end of the this year, and it is growing! Students would sit next to each other in the computer lab, messaging each other on MySpace! People are MySpacing like crazy, sending pictures, e-mails, cell phone numbers...........wait a minute...........cell phone numbers?

Ahhh, now we come to the problem. Students are posting things that could get them in big trouble on the Internet and don't realize that MySpace is very public. It is no wonder that schools are clamping down on the website. I don't think that the fact that students are using it so much is the problem, as much as what is posted on them. As the Sacramento Bee reported recently, there are legal issues for students and administrators that could get a lot of people in trouble. How much trouble? Well...........

Forgive me all, but I signed on to MySpace and created an account to check out this new fad. In fact, you can take a look at my MySpace page HERE. The hype is overwhelming and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see how easy it is to navigate this new universe. Here are my thoughts on MySpace:

-First of all, it is very easy to join up and the operations are easy to understand. MySpace creates a webpage template that people can modify using simple HTML commands, or more common, by copying program language into the page template. Everything else is simply informaton that the user plugs in.

-Pages can be totally warped to a persons personality. Colors, music videos, images, pictures, you name it. So it is an easy way for the user to scream "individuality" while on the Internet.

-You can become popular on this thing very quickly. On each webpage, there is an area that contains all of your "friends", meaning people that you can talk to. If you click on that image, you get transported to that persons webpage, who has more "friends", and so on. It is easy to find someone you know very quick.

-How quick? Well, on the last day of school I talked to CW about MySpace and she told me that I should visit her site. Tonight, I signed up and visited her site. I pushed the button that would send her a message that stated that I would like to become a "friend" on her site. How long did it take her to respond? 3 minutes. I am now friend #81. My displayed name is "Master Yoda", so it isn't like it is screaming "TEACHER". CW is friend #1 for me. Let's see long it takes to attract the attention of others.

-I cruised MySpace to check out the doings of other former-students. I did not, and will not, check out the sites of current students. The reason? Liability. According to Ed Code, I am required to notify the authorities if a minor is doing anything illegal. That and I don't need to change my perception of students by reading something that might be about me in an online blog. So I checked out former students from the last 4 years from Ukiah High School. The things posted on their blogs ranges from laugh-out-loud funny to downright stupid. CW's website is personalized after her very well. It is laced with raunchy humor and profanity. Now, I don't know about you, but when I was 18, I talked a lot of raunchy humor and profanity. In fact, I'm still very versed in the vocabulary of profanity, just not around the kiddies. But come on, in high school or college......or around old friends....let the shit talking fly. Other things are on CW's website; pictures from graduation, a music video, lots of surveys like "what is your favorite color?" kind of things. Upon further review of other ex-students, the pictures became more graphic. I viewed students with the usual beer can in their hands, and most of the female students with a jug of Bacardi in their lap. I found a dozen sites where students were smoking joints, 4 sites that included pictures of kids taking bong hits, a couple that have students wearing wayyyy too little, and if I wanted to call about 15 of my old smart-as-hell kiddies, it would be no problem since I know have their cell phone number. Oh yea, I almost forgot a few (yes, a few) sites with ex-students doing lines of blow on a table.

This is the danger that is MySpace. Already, students have been arrested for the content of their MySpace page. As the Sac Bee article shows, administators are starting to creep into student sites and hold kids accountable for the actions that are shown in photographs. As teachers, we are required to alert the authorities if we see our students doing this! And I'm not even talking about the danger to students who place personal information on webpages for the whole world to see. "Hi, I'm a 15 year old girl from Ukiah High School. Here's what I look like and here's my cell phone number". That is a very dangerous scenerio that is being played out right now on MySpace. The whole situation is quite bad, for students and teachers alike. Ukiah High School put MySpace.com on the Officer Dave list of banned sites from the school. Of course, it took a day to figure out a way around it (cached google page loophole).

So as a teacher, what do you do? I'm not about to police the material of my students, since I'm not into censureship, and that is the job of parents anyway. Hopefully, teachers are just aware and try to let parents know that MySpace is a pretty damning thing if used without a little common sense.
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