Let the innocent teenager have a myspace profile?

An issue that used to be important to my friends and I, although it doesn't affect me much anymore, is the regulation and prohibition of online networking sites like MySpace. As we all know, many parents prohibit their teens from using these sites, or try to control how they use them. Boyd writes at length about this these regulations, and they become a significant dispute for many families. At the risk of sounding like a teenager who wants to complain about his or her family rules (they're like the most unfair ever!), I want to champion a more relaxed method of oversight. Instead of banning teenagers from having online profiles, and having them consequently defy these regulations, parents might make sure their children are informed of the risks, and then allow them to make decisions for themselves.
Many adults are completely unfamiliar with online socializing, so it makes sense that they might want to ban it. This aversion is especially understandable because much of the exposure they get to these online sites is in the form of negative publicity. There are too many horror stories on the local news meant to shock and appall.
But how real are these fears? With the tens of millions of teens and adolescents who use online profiling sites and the handful every year who run into serious consequences because of it, the chances of someone's child being abducted or molested, statistically, are probably less than those of them getting hit every time they cross the street. Parents, though some might try, cannot easily prevent their children from crossing the road, but they can teach them to do in a safe manner. Thus a similar rationale might be applied to online privacy and security.

It seems that we are an overprotected generation, where parental involvement so is highly prized and expected that missing a soccer game is frowned upon. But knowing how to represent oneself online will be an important for future business people. Teens might as well make mistakes but learn this skill sooner rather than when it could damage their career.
For instance, it becomes apparent that teenagers need to understand the implications of the accessibility of these "pubic" spaces. Lange writes in Social Networking on YouTube about a friend of "Anjin" giving a thumbs up to a Swastika. To many it might symbolize Nazis and mass genocide. His friend is Jewish, however, so to them it is simply an ironic inside joke. But, to paraphrase Danah Boyd, as the "binary" ideas of private vs. public are replaced by a spectrum of the accessibility of information that is posted online, it becomes important to know how public our private interactions are.
Banning these websites only prevents normal teenage behavior – socializing, competing for social status, and risk taking. And when they are limited, teens simply bring their networking personalities into hiding. One of Boyd's informants wrote that "A few of my friends won't even dare to tell their parents about their MySpace cause they know they'll be grounded forever." Poor decisions about their online persona could result from this secrecy.
Boyd writes, "restrictions on access to public life make it difficult for young people to be socialized into society at large." In short, instead of restricting them, if parents allowed teens the freedom to be mature enough to regulate their own profiles, they might grow enough to do so.

This is a really good point -- but we've all become so overprotected and infantilized as a culture that we can't bear not to legislate or regulate away any dangers in the world (or run the risk of lawsuits). Our "won't somebody please think of the children!" mentality causes us to demonize every tiny little bit of the unknown, as if by doing so we could all be perfectly protected, all the time...