Invading MySpace

“I’ve covered murders, grisly accidents, airplanes falling out of the sky and, occasionally, dirty politics. But in nearly two decades of journalism, nothing has made my insides churn like seeing what my 13-year-old daughter and her friends are up to on”

Column One in today’s LA Times follows a mother’s journey into the inner sanctum of MySpace and describes what she discovers there about her daughter’s world. 

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. From writing the genre to understanding the generation I’m writing about, I’ve got so much to learn about Young Adult fiction (YA). The article isn’t the end-all; it’s just one experience, one point of view. But it’s an important perspective to think about and one I can learn from. 

What do you think about MySpace and/or this article? I’d love to hear from you, if you’re willing to share what you know.

UPDATE: Thanks so much for all your comments! Just warming up to the subject? Take a peek at zeisgeist‘s latest blog.


  1. I’m so glad you shared that – fascinating stuff!

    I didn’t realize there was the age 14 thing. I’ll use that rule if my kids ever ask about it. My 11 yo says lots of people at school are doing myspace. Lucky for me, he has no interest at this point.

  2. Between my job in a high school & middle school and my own teenage daughter, I feel like I’m on the front lines. It’s good for writing YA, I guess.

    I also like to write chick lit, so being a single woman in my early 30’s… that’s pretty good for that too…

    I’d like to dabble in mystery/suspense… maybe I shuld marry a cop. πŸ˜‰

  3. I started using the Internet for social interaction (and started blogging) when the Lord of the Rings films were hot. I loved the movies and enjoyed talking about them with other fans. Through that connection, I started exploring all sorts of stuff on the Web and was pretty horrified at the ways people interact, the things they share here, etc. The ‘net has been very good to me, as well – that’s how I found Lauren, Nadia, etc. But I have had some awful experiences and seen some behavior that I was mature enough to resist but that would really terrify me if I knew any teens who were caught up in it. (Who cares about foul language? Teens will do that anywhere – I’m talking about people getting scammed out of thousands of dollars, weird co-dependent sexual relationships, etc.) I worry about how teens will be interacting online when my daughter is old enough to participate. At 21 months, she already knows how to use a mouse! I know the times continue to change, and I know there are a lot of positives to being online, but it’s also frightening in so many ways. Don’t know how I’ll deal with it, and I feel like I should have an idea as somebody who writes for teens. But I’m lost. The upside, I think, is that I’m online all the time and savvy to how things work. There is NO privacy on the ‘net, and my daughter will have no privacy when she’s online, either. I am going to see everything she does here.

  4. Teens are way more precocious than people think they are. I worked as a school counselor for a year at a middle school. There were girls who’d lost their virginity to 21 year old guys when they were 11… That was a huge eye opener for me. When i teach, i don’t like to think about the stuff my kids could be doing. They seem so young to me, and i adore them. I don’t want them to be doing dumb stuff. But i’m not surprised at all about the content on My Space. I don’t have kids yet, but i want to be involved in what my kids are doing. But i wonder if i’ll be able to keep up with them. I think the dumbest thing i did that my parents didn’t know about was ride with a drunk person when i was 15 because i couldn’t figure out at the time how to get out of the social obligation. It wasn’t that i wasn’t aware of all the things my peers were doing, i just wasn’t interested. But i can’t guarantee that my kids will be like me. (And i DON’T want them riding with drunk people for any reason!)

    Anyway. Random thoughts.

  5. It’s scary, to be sure. But some of the basic rules of parenting are still in place. First, nosiness. It never goes out of fashion. I always tried to know who they were talking to online. The computer stayed in a central location, the family room, so they knew I could always peer casually over their shoulder to see what was going on. Of course, they know I know more about computers than them, and I never hesitated to remind them of that fact, so they could never be sneaky on me. Three down, two to go. My fingers are crossed.

  6. I liked that article, and I applaud the mother for keeping an eye on things. But, well, the mother really did seem like a prude even though she claimed she wasn’t. She was so upset about foul language, one-fingered salutes, and song lyrics (yawn). I did SO many stupid things as a teenager–dangerous things–partly because I didn’t understand there was a difference between them and the minor things like “saying the F word.” Both were upsetting and unacceptable to adults, so, I reasoned, adults were just uptight *#$%ers.

    • “I did SO many stupid things as a teenager–dangerous things”

      Oh my God, I get sick to my stomach when I think about the things I did as a teen – and when I think that my daughter is going to do stupid things, too, because that’s just what teenagers *do.* I truly believe that youth is to be survived.

      And re: the Internet, There will always be something that frightens the adults. When my parents were growing up it was Elvis, the Beatles and hippies. Now that I’ve got a child, I feel like the parents in Bye Bye Birdie. “Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!” πŸ™‚

  7. I only know that I’m glad my girls are old enough to know how to handle a place like that. Thirteen’s too freaking young!!!!!!! I don’t like that ANY pictures can be uploaded…we’ve been very protective of our girls…and I don’t like going to all that work to have some dingbat somewhere post his naked bod for the world to see. Or whatever other obscenities…

    Kid’s have to be old enough to understand why rules are in place for places like that, and smart enough to know why. Then, as always, the govern themselves. (Hopefully with smarts)

    Oddly enough, the “anonymous” hate mail my daughter is getting is from myspace…and she knows who the girl is! ( So much for anon!)

    People do weird things when they don’t have to be accountable.

  8. My cousin set me up with a MySpace account years ago (and I sort of forgot about it until Marianne had the brainstorm about using it as promotion) so I went back on and contacted her (she’s just 19) and she sent her friends to join me. I was looking through profiles and such and was thinking I would have loved something like this when I was a kid.
    Kids are so much more judgemental than parents can ever be – about hair, clothes, acting, and often pushing peers in the wrong direction, that a virtual world where you can learn to express yourself (and even your dark side) without ever really exposing yourself is probably (in a lot of cases) a good thing.
    One thing parents have to remember is that kids do grow up and grow out of their stupid age – eventually.
    I can’t see where even the worst language and raunchy sex talk can do more than shock an impressionable teen…and that teen can always just turn the computer off, which he or she can’t do in school with his or her peers.
    (Wondering if the kids who shot everyone in school were on the ‘more controlled by their parents’ side or the ‘left to be completely wild’ side?)

  9. I talked about this on my journal. Basically, I thought that the restrictive action this mother took is more likely to make the daughter rebel, and rebel more thoroughly. I mean, why didn’t she just say, “Okay, take that down now” about the photo? It was overkill to invoke the “you broke the rules and now it’s over” deal. That’s too authoritarian. And she also used her daughter and the experience to advance herself at work–one of my commenters said this, and I now see it clearly. That wasn’t really all that “cool” of her, now, was it? Hmm. But anyhow, kids are going to try stuff, and it would have been far better for her to experience that “F word” stuff and the other things on the MySpace under her mother’s nose rather than now having to go out and actually do stuff on the street. I’m not trying to be tacky, but that’s what’s probably going to happen, and what Mama don’t know will fill volumes at THAT time. . . .

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