Wired News is running a brief guide to MySpace for parents, because, if you are a parent who is clueless about MySpace, there is a good chance you track on Wired News, right? Oh, maybe not.
But something there caught my eye: danah boyd is quoted as saying “Don’t go on and engage in surveillance. That makes things really hard for kids to engage with you as a parent.” When a reporter asked me the same question, I had just the opposite answer: this isn’t a diary, it’s a public space, and there isn’t anything that says you cannot engage your kids there.
I’m not sure I’m right. I agree that kids (and other aged humans) need autonomous spaces in which they can grow, learn, and interact socially. I do think that the majority of the panic surrounding MySpace is the standard sort of fear (and fear mongering) that surrounds any new technology. Like other examples, there is always a seed of truth in some of the hyperbole, but it is over-wrought.
But I think that there is a disconnect between kids’ expectations of privacy in these spaces and the reality, which is that this is a transparent space; it is semi-public.
So, you shouldn’t go and spy on your kids in their own hangouts either, but if you happen to drive down the street and see your kids hanging out with a gang, it’s not wrong to wonder why.
I’m a bit torn here. I wonder if the right answer is to start your own MySpace page and friend your kids. I guess not. Of course, when I have kids I’ll probably end up spying on them incessantly. What was it Reagan said? “Trust, but verify.”