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Controversial Internet site attracts blog users

The new fad for teens today may endanger their privacy, lives and eyesight. MySpace first started out as a site for file sharing, and modified into a place for networking, friends, and dating.

The youth captivated by MySpace makes up 12% of the 56 million profiles within the United States. The large percent of MySpace profiles belonging to adults concern some parents about their children connecting with strangers from across the globe.

?My mom lets me have a MySpace,? Haley Tamberi, ’07, said. ?But she?s still concerned about it because she hears stories on the news about kids meeting with strangers whom they?ve been communicating with. Some haved ended up kidnapped or harassed, and she always reminds me to be careful. For a week straight, I got all these friend requests from guys living in Washington. It?s weird how they find you.?

The site requires users to know personal e-mail addresses or last names in order to send a friend request, review comments to profiles, blog or photos before they are posted. This allows only friends to post comments on blog entries.

While some safety precautions exist to prevent communicating with unknown elements, some users choose milder settings that still give them the sense of safety.

?I set my MySpace to private and I don?t accept friend requests that I don?t know,? Clay Alcorn, ?10, said. ?You never know if that 15-year-old girl isn?t really a 45-year-old man.?

An e-mail address and an age prerequisite of 14 years complete the eligibility requirements. When an applicant does not meet the mandatory ages, an alert pops up stating they are too young. Although MySpace blocks ages under the requirement, it is simple for a participant to adjust their date of birth.

?When I originally made my MySpace, I lied about my age because I was only 13,? Landon Martens, ?10, said. ?I wanted a MySpace pretty bad since many of my friends had their own.?

Regardless of the media alerts exposing the dangers of MySpace to the public, some students ignore the warnings and rely upon themselves to monitor their behavior.

?I have heard stories on the news about kidnapped children,? Jeremy Ramos, ?07, said. ?I?m not scared because I know I?m responsible with my actions online. I make sure I don?t talk to people I don?t know.?

The number of friends on a friend list becomes a competition for some, and out of an act of desperation, outsiders enter into the MySpace world of teens.

?I compare how many friends I have on my friend list to how many my peers have,? Emily Kreighoff, ?09, said, ?I tend to add strangers to my friends list just so that my numbers will beat my friend?s, unless in the profile picture they look strange. I only add them just to have one more friend, I don?t try to get to know them.?

Some manage to maintain a rather large number of friends without having to reach out to strangers.

?I have about 750 friends, which is more than what most people have,? Ramos said. ?I?m not proud of it because it shows how much time I spend on MySpace, but I have actually met all of the people on my list.?

Although MySpace may seem dangerous to many, others find it to be a great source of communication.

?I use MySpace to chat with friends from school and church,? David Fujihara, ?08, said. ?I like seeing their pictures and videos. It?s a good place to just talk and get to know people.?

MySpace took the form of a constant companion during long and friendless summer days making it difficult to break the habit.

?I get on MySpace everyday for about a half hour, looking at my friends? pictures,? Larissa Hensley, ?09, said. ?If I can?t get online for a day, I wonder if anyone?s left a comment on my site and want to check.?

MySpace provides a place to connect with those that are distant and difficult to maintain a relationship with.

?I met some people at Clovis West?s Sadie?s last year and have kept in touch with them through MySpace,? Ramos said. ?We?ve gotten pretty close. They?re planning on coming to my soccer games.?

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