MySpace? It's Public Space, Dude

Sean Alfano at his home desk is unable to muster any words to fill his MySpace blog. Angela A. Bowers for CBSNews.com

This column was written by CBSNews.com's Sean Alfano.



Teens beware: your parents are smarter than you think.

While online communities such as MySpace.com teem with profiles of teenagers, who converse easily and freely about the gossip that engulfs their daily lives, the talk in no way takes place in a parent-free zone.

That's right, kids. Your folks are on to you.

"Please don't reveal this, but I also know my son's MySpace password and will from time to time sign-in as him and monitor a bit deeper," one mother of a teenage son wrote me.

Shocked?

You shouldn't be. Judging from the responses I received via telephone and e-mail interviews, parents with MySpace profiles of their own, actively patrol their children's pages, often secretively.

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Sure, the aforementioned mom knew it was "deceptive" to sneak into her son's online world and peruse his cyber identity, but not doing so is too much of a risk in her estimation.

"With all the perversions going on via MySpace, a parent sometimes has to step over the privacy line on behalf of her child," this mother said.

Of course, I must admit, I thought parents ignorant when it came to the online activities of today's youth. I envisioned a befuddled mom and dad too tired and too confused to actively scour all the nooks and crannies their children visit while on MySpace or Facebook.com.

But that all changed when I set up my own profile.

In less than 10 minutes, I made a very basic profile, giving my name, age, marital status and my location.

Take a guided tour of the author's MySpace profile
For good measure, I slapped a properly nice picture of me, wearing an innocent gray sweater vest and tie, capped with a trustworthy grin.

Or so I thought.

After posting bulletins to MySpace groups asking if any teens or parents would be interested in speaking with a CBSNews.com reporter, a barrage of suspicious moms pelted my inbox with queries.

"I could talk to you, but I really can't be sure that you are whom (sic) you say you are," one mom, with the aptly titled screen name Mama Kitty, said.

"Is there a phone number for CBS or person that I could contact to verify your employment with CBS? If you check out, I would be willing to speak with you," a mom who later identified herself as Betsy, wrote.

The uneasiness continued.

"That probably is a picture of Sean Alfano, but you could have gotten that anywhere," Mama Kitty added. Was she serious? I mean, who would question a photo that one co-worker deemed "lame."

Once I fired off all the relevant information, which amounted to a list of previous employers and my work phone number, most of the parents agreed to talk.

My main question: Do you see your child's MySpace profile as a healthy expression of creativity or a source for discomfort?

Of all the responses, it was the first one that stood out.

At the conclusion of a lengthy e-mail, a mother named Paula, who used the screen name Driven to Insanity, wrote, "I call MySpace a mixed blessing."

  • Sean Alfano

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