IL Senate wants to ban MySpace from schools

Opponents say move is 'good politics' but bad policy for kids.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

The Illinois Senate is extending its effort to protect children from sexual predators by banning MySpace from schools and libraries, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Critics of the proposed legislation say that that banning those sites would affect those who can't afford the Internet at home, and schools already have restrictions regarding access to social networking sites.

The proposed legislation exemplifies a national need to deal with growing fears of online sexual predators. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to bar social networking sites from public libraries and schools, but the legislation died in the Senate.

"It makes for good politics to be behind this, but when you start making legislation to get ahead of technology or teenagers, you're going to lose on both counts," said Bill Bond of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Currently, Chicago public libraries don't restrict public access to social networking sites, but a few do.

The Naperville Public Library, for instance, has blocked sites that require users to be over the age of 13. MySpace members must be at least 14.

"We talked about it and we thought it was reasonable not to have access to those sites in the children's area," said Susan Strunk, the Naperville library's deputy director.

The decision was "driven by what makes sense from what we were hearing [from parents]," Strunk said. "The issue of sexual predators was not part of the discussion."

Although librarians are concerned about online predators, Bob Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Association, feels that this is an issue between parents and their children.

"Parents need to talk to their kids about what their expectations are and what the ground rules are."

Doyle says that the legislation is too broad and that it would affect the hundreds of social networking sites that specialize in everything from tips on homework to communication between overseas soldiers and their families.

"So do we block [access to] those too?" Doyle said.

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