Lawsuit Lottery: MySpace Style

Can parents who inadequately supervised their child turn their poor parenting into a big payday from MySpace? Let’s hope not,

The family of a teenage girl who says she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old man she met on MySpace.com asked a federal appeals court Monday to revive their lawsuit against the social networking Web site.

A federal judge dismissed the $30 million suit in February 2007, rejecting the family’s claim that MySpace has a legal duty to protect its young users from sexual predators.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas, also ruled that interactive computer services like MySpace are immune from such lawsuits under the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

…The girl, identified as Julie Doe in court papers, was 13 when she created a MySpace profile in 2005. MySpace requires users to be at least 14, but the girl misrepresented herself as 18 years old.

She was 14 when the 19-year-old male contacted her through MySpace and corresponded for several weeks before he allegedly sexually assaulted her during a meeting in Travis County, Texas, in May 2006.

…Gregory Coleman, a lawyer for the girl’s family, said the law only gives MySpace a “limited shield” from liability. “It has a responsibility to (protect) children,” he said.

Let me tell you something: I have been writing and doing tech support on the net since 1998 and I can tell you without a doubt that there may be a lot of great things about the internet, but it is inherently an adult medium and it is absolutely no place for an unsupervised teenager.

There are stalkers, pedophiles, lunatics, hackers, and scam artists operating on the net and when you combine that with a healthy dose of hormones and the typical teenager’s lack of judgment, a kid can get into a world of hurt. That’s why, as a condition of using the internet, parents should demand access to their teens’ email, internet chat logs, and social networking pages (I’d even recommend logging keystrokes) — and they should take the time to learn their way around and check up frequently on what their kid is doing. Yes, I know that’s not easy, but have you heard people say that the TV is not a babysitter? Ok, well the internet is REALLY not a babysitter. You turn your kid loose on the net without supervision and you are just BEGGING for trouble of one sort or the other.

So, the very fact that this 14 year old girl was able to chat with a 19 year old for weeks and arrange a meeting without the girl’s parents knowing about it, tells me that her parents were not doing their duty.

That’s not MySpace’s fault. To the contrary, the idea that they should be monitoring the conversations of a 14 year old to make sure that she’s not saying or doing anything unwise is asinine. That’s the job of the parents and it was wise of the judge to dismiss the case.

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