A couple lists that I belong to have been blowing up with messages regarding MySpace.com. It is a very popular social networking website that offers social networking, photos sharing, websites, and blogs (and I’m sure much more). It may be different from Friendster, but I don’t see the differences yet (though it might be a little more customizable).I decided to go in and take a look for myself. I set up an account and they gave me this link (Find me on MySpace and be my friend! — cheesy, isn’t it?). Now back to the discussion. Many on the list were complaining about their students setting up accounts in MySpace. They argue that it is not a healthy space for children (under 18) do to the explicit nature of the advertisements, member spaces, and the fact that this space is rife with sexual preditors. I can only guess that the last assertion is correct. The first two assertions are absolutely true. There is no way that this site (yes, the entire site) is appropriate for children. If you click on the link above, it takes you to my space on MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/linguavita). This is probably the safest place on this network. However, the banner ads can get somewhat explicit. This place is only “safe” if users don’t click on anything else on the page. I couldn’t seem to keep in my space. I was always getting bounced out to the general MySpace pages, which all show a liberal amount of cleavage and women in suggestive poses. I can see the point of those who say, “But children see worse than this on afternoon TV.” That’s true too. However, I think that this dialogue began in response to a suggestion that it be used with students. I really wouldn’t even be comfortable using this with my adult students. I think that it’s apparent that I do not recommend that this be used with students, however I do not agree with those calling for MySpace to be boycotted, petitioned, sued, etc… That is just ridiculous. While the advertisements are explicit, they are not pornographic. The user spaces might be, but how can you control this? It’s impossible. Put on parental controls and block the myspace domain. There really seems to be a healthy, adult (mostly early 20’s) community forming in this space. While I don’t hold it up as an example of a child-friendly application, it is an exemplary social networking application. I only have a couple complaints in this regard. The sheer size and number of advertisements get in the way. Also, most of the spaces cannot be limited to “friends.” Some content can be, but access to your space is public (including your pictures). Also, it would be a better application if you could limit discussion forums to your friends (or even 2nd or 3rd order friends). A public forum gets too unwieldy. Nothing is going to form in there but chaos.