North Carolina’s attorney general Roy Cooper is pushing for tighter restrictions on the use of social networks by children, after MySpace revealed 29,000 registered sex offenders were identified as members.
I’m 100% behind Cooper’s efforts to protect children from online predators, but is his solution the best we have? Here’s what Cooper wants:
Cooper is pushing for a state law that would require children to receive parental permission before creating social networking profiles, and require the Web sites to verify the parents’ identity and age. For example, social networking sites would have to compare information provided by a parent with commercial databases. Sites could also force parents to submit credit cards or printed forms.
Can you think of a faster way to kill the growth of social networks than to make it a royal pain to join them? According to comScore Media Metrix, MySpace had 4.7 million users under the age of 18 in June. When you compare that to the 29,000 registered sex offenders discovered, it would seem far more practical to tackle those numbers, than the nearly 5 million kids that use MySpace.
I’m sure MySpace would prefer not to have such tight restrictions placed on such a large chunk of its audience. By placing these types of restrictions on kids, you’ll likely send them to other social networks that may not have any kind of safeguards at all. Do we want our kids registering with networks that operate outside of the U.S.? Look what happened to the gambling industry – it didn’t go away, it just went offshore.
In the real world, we fight the perverts by making their life a living hell. We don’t lock-up our kids and never let them out of the house. Why can’t we find a similar online solution?