My space, My kids
Jason Illian: MySpace is Not the Problem
By Lori D'Augostine
CBN.com Associate Producer
Jason Illian is doing it again. The former contestant on ABC's The Bachelorette (2004) and author of Undressed: The Naked Truth About Love, Sex and Dating is taking his relationship advice to a new place -- the virtual world.
MySpace, the second-most visited site on the Internet is being called the biggest cyber-secret that kids are keeping from their technologically-impaired parents.
Not anymore. In his newest book, Jason undresses the truth and exposes the misconceptions of the MySpace underground. MySpace, MyKids is a simple guide for parents to learn how to protect their kids and navigate the site. I recently sat down with Jason to discuss his latest book.
Lori D'Augostine: Jason, you just wrote a popular book about relationships and dating. Why did you decide to switch gears and write a book about MySpace?
Jason Illian: It wasn't much of a switch. I was already talking about relationships. I was traveling and speaking, and a lot of parents would ask me questions about MySpace. I also had my own MySpace page and ... let's just say that I made some mistakes and learned some valuable things along the way.
Lori: What did you learn?
Jason: I learned that MySpace isn't inherently the problem. You see, most kids don’t know how to use safety nets, like privacy settings. Once you do all that and block strangers, it becomes a parenting issue. It’s up to the kid to not invite someone to be your friend who is a stranger. Just like in the real world we are taught not to talk to strangers, the same is true of MySpace.
Lori: Do you feel you are equipped as a newly married, young adult to address these issues?
Jason: I’ve been speaking to teens about dating. My heart is for teens. MySpace is a new issue that teens deal with that encompasses everything. When you see a girl flaunting herself on MySpace, her issue is self esteem, or family problems. Myspace is simply the symptom of her problem.
Lori: So, why do you think that so many teens turn to MySpace?
Jason: People long for permanent relationships in a temporary world. This is a way to gain faux-intimacy. This is a way to say look how many friends I have and how many people like me. For kids who don’t have a real family, MySpace becomes their virtual family.
Many parents are upset over MySpace. If MySpace shuts down, something stronger will come. Social networking will be around for a while. Be thankful that MySpace allows you to keep track of your kid.
Lori: In your book, you encourage parents to monitor their teens by setting up their own profile. Do you think that children might interpret this as spying? Could this create some backlash?
Jason: Parents should not spy. Tell your kids that you will be going online. Don’t look at their account until you’ve told them you are going to look at it. Parents need to open up the lines of communication and say, "I’m here to monitor you, help you along the way, and I don’t want to have to take this away from you."
There are 3500 kids dying from car accidents each year. We don’t take their cars away. We just teach kids to drive well. It's the same thing with online. We’re not here to stop them, but to teach them to do it safely.
Lori: So, are you saying that you can help parents navigate through MySpace? What would you say to those parents who feel intimidated by it or for working parents, who don't have the time?
Jason: Yes, parents don’t have time to go through 500 pages on MySpace. That’s why I created this book. It’s readable in a couple of hours. It will teach you how to open an account, monitor your kids, and change privacy settings.
Lori: I recently read that teenagers' social interactions consist mainly in chat rooms and social networks, versus hanging out with friends at the mall. Virtual dating is becoming the norm. Do you think MySpace is a viable forum for dating? Is this something Christian singles should be open to?
Jason: MySpace is a tool. There’s nothing more valuable than face-to-face encounter. That’s lost online. I want to be cautious with teens. Adults should have more maturity. Teens are still learning to socially interact. I wouldn’t recommend that teens try online dating -- to what ends? How’s that gonna turn out well?
Lori: Right. I read in your book that you posed as a sixteen-year-old Christian girl (Suzie) and boy (Jonny). The profile you set up is characteristic of what you've seen among Christian teenagers on MySpace, correct?
Jason: Yes, "Suzie" and "Jonny" are a reflection of what I’ve seen out there. Mine was more conservative though. I didn't get a lot of predators. I saw teens talk in a way they shouldn’t. Twenty and thirty somethings use it for networking. Teens are more shallow. Their conversations consist of ... "Hey, what’s up? Did you see this YouTube video? Isn’t this girl hot?"
Lori: Do you think that there are any benefits to having your personal information out there?
Jason: I don't know what the benefit is of saying your body type and school. Your friends know what you look like and where you go to school. Why are you posting that online? When you’re 16, what’s the point of having all that information, out there? To me, that’s painting a big target ... ”Here’s where you can find me, when I’m away from my family.” It’s dangerous.
Lori: Is this just for teenagers? What can young adults do to protect themselves? Jason, I have to admit, your book has prompted me to consider the dangers of posting personal information on MySpace.
Jason: Yep, that's right. You have to be careful. Almost every corporation and hiring institution will check out your MySpace page before hiring you. I’ve seen a bunch of people not get hired because of what’s on their page. If you’re going to post drinking pictures from Spring Break and an employer says, "I don’t want that to be a reflection of what you do in my firm," you don’t get hired. There are lots of articles about people being fired and not hired. Search Google for the keywords: MySpace and Employers. You'll find lots of stories.
Lori: It's not so much the underground secret society, that many think it.
Jason: Oh no. My profile is public because of what I do. If I wasn’t writing and speaking, my profile would be private. If I’m an investment banker, what do I gain by having pictures of my family out there? I don’t want people perusing and seeing where I live and who my kids are.
The reason why kids are making dumb mistakes on MySpace is because they’re watching adults make mistakes on MySpace. I get more horrified at what adults are putting out there on MySpace then what kids are putting out there.
Lori: Have you heard any feedback on your book yet?
Jason: I've just started to speak about it. The book has been out and the Web Site just came out. I got a letter from the chairman of Pepsi who thought it was fantastic, and he sent the book out to his friends. Churches want me to do seminars. Every church I’ve spoken at the last few years needs to go through this program.
Lori: What has been the response from the Church to your book so far?
Jason: I'll have to be honest. Many churches think MySpace is evil. They think it’s because kids are being abducted. Many are just listening to what Dr. Phil says about it and assuming that every kid is in danger. I’m just asking people to get their foot off the panic button. Educate yourself and then make a decision.
Read an excerpt from MySpace, MyKids.
Order your copy of My Space, My Kids
Learn more at www.myspacemykids.com
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Jason Illian's role on ABC's The Bachelorette has opened doors for him to speak across America on abstinence, transformational leadership, and faith. He is also the author of Undressed: The Naked Truth about Love, Sex, and Dating.
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