Jerry Pournelle, one of the tech industry’s venerable pundits (who also claims to have started the first blog), was a guest on This Week In Tech a couple of weeks ago. As an almost offhand remark, he mentioned that he has a fictitious character on MySpace. He’s a 13-year-old girl. He mentioned that it’s somewhat disturbing to read some of the comments his character receives on MySpace.
Now this could be interpreted a numbver of ways, but I took it as an interesting opportunity for some first-hand sociological research.
The scenario: set up MySpace account, posing as a teenage girl, to see if it’s possible to make friends, establish an on-line persona successfully.
I plan to do this primarily because I have young daughters who will grow up in the Internet Age. I want to have first hand experience with what sorts of dangers my kids may be facing in the future so I can be a more informed parent. I feel part of my job as a parent is to protect my kids, of course, but also to know as much as I can about the things they will find interesting. By informing myself, I believe that I’ll be better able to make smart decisions about how to educate my children.
When I was a kid, the biggest dangers I faced were the school bully and falling off my bike. The Internet, for my kids, will open up opportunities for learning, and viewing the world in a global sense, but it will also open them up to dangers that my parents never had to think about. In the spirit of taking the good with the bad, I’m going to conduct some research into what might be out there. I’ll report the results and findings here.
If you have any sugggestions, I’d love to hear them!