Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Studying the ‘Creep Factor’ of Myspace

MySpace, a social networking Web site, is one of the most popular Web pages on the Internet. With more than 100 million users, you can find almost anyone you have ever met, anyone they have ever met and even pages devoted to their pets.

While it is relatively harmless to search for an old childhood friend or see if your “crush” has a significant other, there are other MySpace users with less innocent intentions.

Sameer Hinduja, an assistant professor in the department of criminology and criminal justice at FAU, conducted a research study called “Personal Information of Adolescents on the Internet: A Quantitative Content Analysis of MySpace.” The study aimed to collect a sample of profiles belonging to minors and see how much of their information was readily available to the public.

“We wanted to collect data to determine how many youths were including identifying information on their MySpace profile pages that a predator could potentially use to locate them,” Hinduja says.

Along with Justin Patchin of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a number of student researchers, Hinduja used a random number generator to create a list of MySpace friend ID numbers. Although 9,000 numbers were generated, only 1,500 belonged to minors with public profiles.

Of these 1,500 profiles, around 40 percent contained the minor’s first name and 9 percent included a surname. The majority of minors, about 81 percent, included their city of residency and 28 percent listed the school they were currently attending. At least one photo of the teen was included in approximately 57 percent of the profiles.

“Our results indicated that youths are in fact posting personal and identifying information, but perhaps not to the extent that many believe,” Hinduja says.

Hinduja’s study concluded that only 4 percent of the sampled profiles contained screen names for instant messengers, and 1 percent included an e-mail address.

“The vast majority of adolescents are demonstrating common sense in this area – which we’re pleased to see,” Hinduja says.

Other areas of interest for this study were evidence of teen alcohol, drug and tobacco use, and whether or not profiles contained profanity.

Since it is difficult to determine which MySpace friends the teens knew personally, no information could be collected on the presence of possible pedophiles or other predators.Hinduja says he would like to do a follow up report on his research study. He and the other researchers collected the data during the summer of 2006 and would like to see how much has changed within the last year.

Hinduja and Patchin will present the rest of their findings at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences convention in Seattle next month.

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