MySpace Study

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The online, social networking site MySpace has gotten a lot of attention as a potentially dangerous place for teens.

But some new research shows kids who use the site are actually being more responsible than you may think.

"I don't put information about myself and my profile is private, so I get to pick the people who are my friends, and I get to deny their comments if I want and their friends requests,” 15-year-old Libby Bredle said.

"A lot of kids I know, they wouldn't give out like their personal information to just anybody,” 15-year-old Tyler Oestreich said. “They'd have to know the person before they'd give them anything."

And some new research supports that. UW-Eau Claire Criminal Justice Professor, Justin Patchin, recently teamed up with a professor in Florida, to see just how much personal information teens are putting out into the World Wide Web.

The two randomly selected 2,500 adolescent MySpace profiles. The study shows almost 40% of those had been set to “private”, meaning only friends can see them.

"Which is a good thing, I mean, what we recommend to everybody who's using MySpace, set it to private so others don't have access to your information,” Patchin said.

Patchin says about 1% of the remaining profiles included things like e-mail addresses or phone numbers. But he says 80% of the teens included the name of their city they live in, and about 30% included the name of their school.

"Sometimes kids just don't realize that just with their name and their city you can find out a lot of information about them," Patchin said. “Through either an online search or just going to that city, going to that school, asking for that child."

So parents, what can you do to help keep your child safe? A detective with the Eau Claire Police Department says you should keep your computer in a main area of your house. Check which sites your kids are visiting online, and monitor their profiles to make sure they aren’t giving out any personal information.

"Be proactive with kids and provide the same sort of advice you would provide to kids entering a strange neighborhood or other environment and teach them to be responsible in those environments,” Patchin said.

So, while it may seem like your teenager doesn’t listen to a word you say, your message is likely getting through.