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The Big Answer

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Me, MySpace, and I

a book by Larry Rosen

(our site's book review)

Rosen reports research which shows that in 2007:

And that was in 2007, before Facebook became the GoTo place for hundreds of millions of people (for better or for worse). They had about a billion users by the end of 2012. As of the third quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.79 billion monthly active users. Half the U.S. population are members of Facebook. Some teens are getting bored with Facebook, however.

Everyone is hooked on media and technology, including kids, teens, and adults, although the young kids under 6 years old are the slowest to be hooked as are the very elderly. Kids under 6 mainly have TV sets in their rooms as their media fix supplier. Apparently parents have discovered a technological babysitter (not necessarily a wise idea). The U.S. Census tells us that the number of television sets has surpassed the number of people living in the household.

Kids under 6 mainly have TV sets in their rooms as their media fix supplier
Kids under 6 mainly have TV sets in their rooms as their media fix supplier

Rosen tells us that many teachers are actually happy to let students text during class downtime since it is quieter than having them whisper to each other. So who cares about learning, anyway?

When kids are on their computers online, they multitask, using, emailing, and surfing simultaneously. Don’t they find it hard to get homework done with all the distractions? They say no. Parents and scientists are not convinced. Focus and concentration suffers whether they know it or not.

Don’t kids find it hard to get homework done with all the distractions?—they say no
Don’t kids find it hard to get homework done with all the distractions?—they say no

When the author wrote Me, MySpace, and I, parents were quite concerned about predators and cyberbullies on MySpace. But it is 2017 and Instagram and Facebook have replaced MySpace as the GoTo place, and the parents are not very concerned since most of them are avid Facebook users too!

Rosen says that: “MySpace is a relatively safe forum in which children can develop as persons—explore their identity, make lifelong friendships, experiment with their sexuality, and live life.” (Think Facebook.) He goes on to say that: “78% of the MySpacers felt that it was easier for them to be honest with their online friends than with their offline friends.”

MySpace icon
MySpace icon

Additionally, he says that based on his extensive research, the impact of the MySpace lifestyle on child and adolescent development has been positive, providing a safe forum for expressing feelings and appearing to enhance relationships and psychological well-being. In 2007 the average MySpace user had 168 “friends.” In 2017, MySpace is concentrating on music. The former social networking titan launched its revamped site in January of 2014 after being purchased by pop star and actor Justin Timberlake, Tim Vanderhook and Chris Vanderhook. The redesign focused on lending professional and aspiring musicians a forum to present their music to the public and interact with fans. The changes meant the new MySpace will no longer be competing with Facebook, Twitter and other general social media sites, but instead is pitting itself against services like Pandora and Spotify. Source: MySpace Tries to Entice Old Users to Come Back With A Little Blackmail.

Rosen feels that MySpace (formerly) and Facebook foster emotional connection (listening to someone's problems without being judgmental) through a combination of anonymity and self-disclosure. Unpopular kids find it a lot easier to make friends online than in person. Social networking definitely has some positive sides for many people.

However, Rosen's comments aside, Facebook is a recipe for self-centeredness, not self-actualization. We get so busy with trying to present a happy face to the world that we lose any reason for it to actually be a happy face. Stephen Marche says that “What Facebook has revealed about human nature—and this is not a minor revelation—is that a connection is not the same thing as a bond."

Facebook encourages false-self actualization, not real self-actualization; and connections, not bonds
Facebook encourages false-self actualization, not real self-actualization; and connections, not bonds

The author, Rosen, looks at reactive parenting where parents simply react to problems after they occur. This is the usual method. There is also proactive parenting, the best kind. Parents anticipate problems, give guidance, set limits, before the problems arise.

Kids used to hang out at malls, parks, pool halls, cafes, etc. Now they hang out online, often from home, which is mostly safer and less worrisome for parents, as well as more effective and efficient for kids talking to friends via I.M. and chat. And when kids hang out at malls or parks, parents can use gps on phone to track them. To set up cell phone tracking on your child's cell phone, you must either add a tracking feature to your phone plan through your wireless service provider, or download third-party tracking applications (apps) directly to your child's cell phone. Or purchase physical third-party tracking software or equipment from online retailers. (Source: How to Set Up Cell Phone Tracking for a Child's Cell Phone)

Kids used to hang out at malls—now they hang out online, often from home
Kids used to hang out at malls—now they hang out online, often from home

Rosen advises that of the 4 parenting styles (authoritarian, neglectful, permissive and authoritative), authoritative is the way to go. Unfortunately, his definition of authoritative is full of punitive punishments and rewards. The best authoritative parenting methods avoid being punitive. He seems to be following the now-discredited Baumrind definition of authoritative, which is basically Authoritarian Lite. At least he is correct that authoritative is the method parents should choose!

Generation Text has the same erroneous definition of authoritative that Rosen uses. So does Your Children Are Under Attack. Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens is a bit less controlling: in this book, there is setting limits and imposing discipline with the use of authoritative logical consequences. In our review of this book, we supply enlightening examples where imposing discipline with the use of authoritative logical consequences is contrasted with Kohn's Unconditional Parenting. This method has no use of logical consequences so we consider it and P.E.T. to be Authoritative Lite. This and P.E.T. avoid logical consequences altogether, but limits still get set.

Overall, this book was a comprehensive look at digital media use by young people, how they use the technology, how much they use it, how it affects them, and how to parent this generation of media-addicted young people, although the book is 7 years old and somewhat obsolete. It has lots of research results and lots of statistics. It’s worth reading, even if its putting MySpace instead of Facebook center stage does make it a bit dated and slightly obsolete. If you modify all the punitive ideas and substitute a nonpunitive method like P.E.T. or Unconditional Parenting or Aware Parenting, you'll be much better off—as will your kids.