Some adults concerned about safety of sites

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 11, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Web sites Facebook and Myspace offer privacy features, but adults say there&8217;s nothing safe about the sites. Teens disagree.

Facebook is only open to people with a college or high school e-mail address. Users can only freely view the profiles of other users at their school, unless approved as a friend by another user. And profile owners can limit who views their sites even further if desired.

Myspace is more open. Membership is not dependent on any school connection, and profiles can be viewed by anyone, including non-members.

Email newsletter signup

&8220;It has the potential to be really dangerous,&8221; Trinity Episcopal Head of School Delecia Carey said. &8220;I don&8217;t think it&8217;s inherently bad, but parents should exercise their right to supervise their children&8217;s use.&8221;

Teens and college students are putting too much personal information on the sites, Ole Miss Director of Student Media Ralph Braseth said.

&8220;There are a lot of creepy people out there in the world,&8221; Braseth said. &8220;If you have a predisposition for young people, what better place to go shopping than to get an account with Facebook where you are looking at 15 and 16 year olds.&8221;

But students argue that Facebook isn&8217;t open to adults, and they don&8217;t approve requests from total strangers.

Facebook does allow membership from college graduates who have an alumni e-mail address.

It&8217;s not just the outside dangers that worry local educators though, it&8217;s the things teens are saying to each other and about themselves.

&8220;We do know they have said negative things toward coaches or teachers here,&8221; Cathedral Principal Pat Sanguinetti said. &8220;I&8217;ve had to talk to students about what they are writing on there.&8221;

At Cathedral, negative comments online are punished, Sanguinetti said.

&8220;They have no freedom of speech to discuss teachers without suffering consequences,&8221; he said. &8220;When they make poor choices they suffer consequences.&8221;

And sometimes the sites reveal suicidal or dangerous thoughts, Trinity teacher Linda Rodriquez said.

Rodriquez worries most about what is posted on Facebook, because there is no easy access to the site for parents. She has contacted the administrator of the site to share her concerns.

&8220;If they feel something is threatening, they need to let a caring adult or an Internet administrator know,&8221; she said.

Rodriquez said she tries to read the sites she has access to, and encouraged parents to do the same.

&8220;I absolutely want to know what is out there and what these kids are doing,&8221; she said. &8220;If we keep that contact with the children in our lives then we&8217;ll just add one level of protection to our children.&8221;

But some teens want just the opposite. Vidalia High freshman Kency Halford said she&8217;s go to great lengths in the past to hide one of her Internet sites from her parents.

&8220;I&8217;ve gone through so many names because my mom keeps on finding them,&8221; she said. &8220;When she does, I change them.&8221;