This one article is not going to counter the hours and hours of Dateline-Gotcha TV but it does provide a little bit of balance.

It seems that several recent studies show that social networking sites are not quite the dens of perversion seen in sweeps week news reports.

Fearful parents may conjure up images of trench-coated predators trolling the Web, but the virtual world their teens actually inhabit is more like the soda shop of yesteryear or the mall — a place to hang with friends.

A rash of new studies by Harris Interactive, the PEW Report and a Cal State psychology professor — and a new book by youth culture expert Anastasia Goodstein — say teens are using MySpace, Facebook, et al, to deepen and enrich existing friendships, not to chat with strangers.

“It’s a way to keep in touch with friends from school,” said Abby Lloyd, a sophomore at Walnut Creek’s Northgate High, “but also with friends that don’t live around here. It’s really easy to keep in touch, say ‘Hi.'”

In just five years, social networks have exploded from a geeky niche to an enormously popular creative outlet involving tens of millions of people.

The reality in all this is that kids need to be careful when they go online. And not every site on the web is appropriate for every child.

But how do our students learn how to recognize good from bad and they should conduct themselves in this new world?

Most probably don’t get it from their parents. And they are certainly not learning it in school where the solution to everything not understood by adults is to block it.

As with many other cultural areas, they learn it from each other. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Thanks to David for the link.

social network, my space, teenagers