A lawmaker in Connecticut wants to require MySpace and other social networking sites to verify user’s ages and obtain parental consent before minors can set up profiles.

This is problematic at best, although I can certainly sympathize with the desire to protect young people from online predators. But confirming ages hasn’t worked so far as it is very easy for people to lie about their age online. I’m very curious about how they expect social networking sites to manage that one.

And they had to use one of the most annoying quotes people use when talking about what we can and cannot accomplish:

“If we can put a man on the moon, we can check ages of people on these Web sites.”

As though one has anything to do with the other.

While I don’t have a social networking site as such, I am wary of such legislation, wondering if they will include forums in this kind of thing. It seems like a small leap to me. I don’t believe they’re planning on including them right now, but since the same sort of issue could arise in a forum all too easily, who is to say?

I would also note how quickly this kind of solution could get expensive. How exactly are sites to confirm ages? Online database with age information? Sounds like a risk to privacy. Contacting parents directly could quickly add up, and how do you know you really have the parents?

I certainly agree something ought to be done to protect children online, but to me it is more the parents’ job and less the government’s or the website’s. Young people will meet people their parents would rather they didn’t sometimes and parents need to know enough about their children’s lives to catch on to problems before they get serious.

No, it is not an easy task. Being a parent has never been worry-free. And yes the internet has made it easy for young people to meet people they shouldn’t. That shows that parents need to be more aware.

Get the internet-connected computer out of the children’s bedrooms. Use tracking software as necessary. Do not rely on businesses to keep track of your children’s activities for you… well, unless you hire them specifically for that purpose.

[tags]myspace,connecticut,social networking sites,protecting children,teens[/tags]