Wednesday, June 21, 2006

14 year old girl sues MySpace over sexual assault

From Findlaw:

"A 14-year-old girl who says she was sexually assaulted by another user of sued the social networking Web site Monday, claiming it does not take sufficient steps to protect underage members.

The girl says a 19-year-old man lied in his profile about being a senior on a football team to gain her trust and phone number."

It's difficult to see how MySpace can be held responsible for this girl's terrible ordeal but it is yet another demonstration of how important it is for kids to be streetwise about the Net, just as we expect them to be streetwise about the real world. It's natural for the family to want to blame someone and no doubt the tabloid press will be right behind them; but would they have sued a nightclub if she had met this 19-year old at a dance?

For parents who are concerned about their children's use of the Net and less than confident about how to advise them about it, there are numerous excellent guides, not least Parry Aftab's The Parents Guide to Protecting Your Kids in Cyberspace. Aftab's simple message is that anyone lacking confidence with the technology should rest assured that the sound advice they pass onto their children about life in general applies just as well to cyberspace.

Update: Anita Ramasastry thinks the lawsuit against MySpace is unlikely to succeed.
And the NYT's lesson for parents on the MySpace madness: v"perhaps this is a good time to take a deep breath and recall that the original title of the 1936 film "Reefer Madness" was "Tell Your Children."

It's important here because somewhere lurking beneath even that misguided and hilariously inaccurate bit of popular hysteria, which suggested that smoking a marijuana cigarette leads to death, suicide and other mayhem, was, at the very least, the notion that parents shoulder much of the burden in teaching young ones to say "no."

Seventy years later, we are in the throes of "MySpace Madness." But if you really think MySpace is hazardous to your child's health, there should be an implicit title here, too: "Tell Your Children." "

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