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Charlie's Soap

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Monday, January 30
Growing up too fast?

Busy Girl ( 11 years old, 6th grade) told me that some of her classmates (the "popular" kids) have My Space pages. We talked about it and I told her my opinion. I know things could change in a hurry, but, right now, she has no desire to do it and understands that it's not for 6th graders and that these kids lied about their age.

I was concerned, so I went to check it out, and, in less than 30 seconds I was able to pull up 2 of the pages using the kid's full name. A couple of these kids have way too much personal information on there, though the rest of their content is basically harmless, I consider it too advanced for their age. The parents are all people I kind of know, but, not really well. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this, yet, if anything. I want to say that I'm sure the parents have no idea that the kids are doing this, but, the fact is, though they are good people, I wouldn't be surprised if they knew and let them because it's what the "cool" people are doing.

The thing that stands out to me the most, though, is that every one of these kids are the youngest in the family and have college-aged siblings. I wonder if these people are simply "done" parenting and want their youngest to grow up faster or something. I'm not sure. I realize this sounds judgemental, and, it probably is, but, it's something I want to study because I have a big gap in my kids' ages, too, and I want to learn from what I see.

I may have told you this before, but, this group of parents is the one I laughed at when Busy Girl and their kids were in kindergarten. I thought it was hilarious that they all had kindergartners and high schoolers. Who knew that, only 2 short years later, it wouldn't be all that funny to me anymore?

9:29 AM | Comments (57) |


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I have an infant and a high schooler (and several in-between). I am in no hurry for any of them to grow up except I'd like the high schooler to act his age already.

My daughters are all growing up at the same rate. I'm definitely from the 'have your kids veryclosetogether' camp. The first two are less than two years apart, and the third is 2.5 years younger that the second. My sister and I are 17 months apart (we call ourselves 'Catholic Twins'), and like my daughters, fought without ceasing until we married our respective husbands. We're best friends now! There must be both advantages and disadvantages to both.

The parents may not realize just how computer savvy their sixth graders have become. Or, you may be right and they are just looking the other way.

Erin, my wife is also a 'catholic twin' (her sister is 11 months older than her) so that gave me a chuckle. There's also sisters that are a true set of twins and a bunch of others...

I taught for 29 years - 2 of those in an inpatient mental health facility. Unfortunately, there are too many parents out there who want to be the "cool" parent. There are many reasons for it. The ramifications are all about the same, and the results are not good all too often. Children do want rules and regulations. They may try you at every turn, but they realize they are loved. That gives security! I've always been to happy to see parents who want their children to not grow up too fast. They are usually secure and happy.

I would definitally bring the myspace accounts in question up to the parents. Or maybe let it be made aware to the PTA or something so that they are away. Being a recent graduate of high school and working with a bunch of people who are 40+, they all have middle school/high school age kids. When they found out about the myspace and learned that I had one, they asked me to look up some of their kids to see if they had it and if they did, what information they had on there.

Well, the stuff that we found shocked my coworkers, and really really hurt them. And they had a long talk with their children about how its not safe for the information that they had up there. These kids were 14-16 years old.

When it comes to a 6th grader, I would definitally want to know if my children had a website like this. It is too dangerous with the types of people on myspace. I've seen some of the creeps on myspace and how they will treat people (A few of my friends had freaks fishing trying to get to them, but they were smart enough). A 14 year old just got murdered because of her myspace by a guy who was like 36 and stalked her or met her. It's not a nice place, and it definitally isn't good if you don't know what you're doing.

Just my two cents.

My middle-schoolers are blocked from both My Space and Xanga. They both used to have pages, but when we found them and saw what some of their friends were posting - pictures AND words, we were mortified! Our kids think we're stupid and overprotective, and we take that as a compliment. :)

I imagine what is really going on here is that the kids were introduced to MySpace from their older siblings.

I have a 6th grade daughter who is 12. After much prodding, I agreed to letting her have a myspace page. I keep a close eye on it and am one of her buddies so if I see a photo or whatever (like the other day in one, her friend had on a hoodie in it with the school name on it.) and I made her take it down. They can set it up where you have to be one of their "friends" to see their profile.

They know I'm watching and their friends know. I got onto one of the friends for the language they used.

That is scary. We just got the boys a computer. We set it up in the open part of the basement, and it's not on a modem-- it only connects to the internet thru a wireless card that they have to get from me if they want to "surf." That being said, while I try to keep an eye on them, I don't hang over their shoulders, and you make a good point that I bet they are far ahead of me on knowing what's out there to do and see. I bet they're not cruising Bluefly!

Thanks for the heads up.

These type of sites are dangerous to kids for many reasons. In particular, the sites have become territory for predators. It's not the 6th grader reading a profile I worry about (although cyber-bullying is becoming a national pasttime) but the 36 year-old reading, looking and writing to these young kids. (See below) Furthermore, kids don't realize the Internet is forever. Imagine writing the age you lost your virginity or a drug you took. This will be available to college admissions officers and future employers. In fact, some colleges and employers already search these sites checking out possible recruits.

"Three men all over the age of 18 were taken into custody. Charges were pending late Wednesday night, said Sgt. Dan Krieger of the League City Police Department.

The girl is believed to have made contact with at least one of the suspects via the Internet service My Space.com, according to Krieger.

It was the third such case involving League City teen girls meeting strangers online through MySpace. com.

Last week, police arrested a 32-year-old computer technician on charges that he attempted to lure a 14-year-old girl into having sex with him. Additional charges involving the sexual assault of another 14-year-old girl were later added.

In both of those cases, said police, the suspect had made contact with the girls through MySpace.com."
http://galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=a7165f8950fbb2e2

"He warned parents against allowing their children to post personal information and photos of themselves on two cyber meeting places in particular, MySpace.com and Xanga.com.
The sites foster such an exponential networking of friends and friends of friends that personal information and photos are available to untold numbers of strangers."
http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/local_news/article/0,1426,MCA_437_4401686,00.html

Posted by: WKM | January 30, 2006 11:17 AM

I have a college kid and a fifth grader. Even the college boy isn't on MySpace. He does use FaceBook, but it has a lot more restrictions that MySpace as far as what people can see about you without your permission. The younger one's ticked that I won't even let her have an Instant Message ID. I blamed it on AOL, since THEY say you have to be 13. Even then, it will be VERY tightly controlled.

Myspace is banned in my house. Even though my duaghter(14) adhered to all my rules, her friends and aquaintances posted some nasty stuff on her bulletin board. For example The Slut test, which asked such lovely questions as "Have you ever had a threesome?" I'm going to e-mail the link of the myspace for the girl who is stalking my son. I REALLY would like to call her parents because it amazes me they have no clue how their daughter is presenting herself to the world.My son is 17, this girl is 14 and the epitome of jailbait.

Posted by: rose | January 30, 2006 11:27 AM

Speak up BusyMom! There was a recent Amber Alert of a young girl (13) in the Houston area who "met" a man on MySpace and left her home in the middle of the night to meet up with this guy. He was 19 and luckily she was found (in an apartment with the 19 year old and a 21 year old man). Sex was involved. From all of the news reports, this was a good girl who was active in school, had lots of friends and had never given her parents any conern to be worried that she'd ever do anything like this.

Sixth grade is too young. MySpace is for older people who know how to protect their identity online.

Posted by: Nanny Doon | January 30, 2006 11:35 AM

I put my full name on my b**g in hopes that you might stalk me someday.

Oh, one more thing - we use a program called Content Protect: http://www.contentwatch.com/products/contentprotect.php Each child has his/her own ID, and you can modify the setting according to what you want each user to be able to access. The program also logs web site visits and chats in real time and you can view what your kids are doing from any computer that is connected to the internet. Our kids are well aware of what we can see and that nothing they do online is private. It gives us a lot of peace of mind.

LilZ hasnt asked about MySpace yet, but he has asked about having a website, luckily he loses interest after about 1 day, so it's never a big issue.

I worry about the age difference as well - and what effect it will have on us.

Posted by: Zoot | January 30, 2006 11:52 AM

I would suggest that you talk to the parents, however, be prepared for the "it can't happen to my child" response. Tony Dungy's son had a myspace and if it had been taken more seriously, perhaps, his tragedy wouldn't have happened. You never know.

I know I'm more relaxed about things with zoe than with the boys. i think you can't help but be more mellow with the ones that come after. it was the same with my brother and me. i'm 9 years old er, and comparatively he had so much more freedom than i ever had. and he was a good boy and didn't take advantage of it.

i agree a 12 year old doesn't need a website. my computer is in the living room in the middle of everything so i can see everything they're doing over their shoulders. i log off at night (so there is no creeping down the stairs, or before school computer useage) and we're generally very careful about their internet access.

i used to tell my kids that if the worst thing they could say about me was that i was over-protective, i could live with that. and i can. trust me (as the mother of two grown/groan kids..). pay attention to what they do on-line. i know this for a *fact* even the sweetest, most innocent child can be lured onto some of the most shocking web-pages you can imagine. fortunately, you're computer savvy, and that's gonna come in handy down the road.

and you should absolutely tell the parents of the other kids what their children are up to. i don't think parents with large age gaps between kids stop parenting, i just think they assume the older kids are helping out (but, as you already know, they're not).

the MOST important thing you can do, as a parent, is keep the lines of communication open and flowing... which you already do.

My 17 year old and I both have a my space. I have mine to monitor hers. she has some really great friends, but I still monitor things. Myspace can get out of hand in a hurry.

Posted by: Lygia | January 30, 2006 12:36 PM

Let's see... when I started college, my youngest sister had just started preschool. She just started junior high this year. I think that, if anything, my parents have tried to not let her grow up too quickly because she is their last kid. I mean, they appreciate the fact that she can use the potty by herself, but they're not letting her be too grown-up too quickly. :)

As far as a myspace account or anything like that, she hasn't shown much of an interest. Probably because my parents are on dial-up, and she doesn't even have her own email address. The things she really wants are her own cell phone and an iPod. She's getting neither (my dad even said no to the iPod even if she paid for it, at least right now). But she's a pretty good kid, and with an overprotective sister and a computer-programming brother-in-law, she really can't get away with much.

i hang out with a group of moms from my son's kindergarten class. at least three of them have a high-schooler and a kindergartener.

I would talk to the parents if you talk to them normally. Think of this - would you want someone to let you know something about your child. I don't let step kids on our computer for a gammet of reasons but websites is a big one - what their mom lets them do is her thing (whole nother blog). Err on the side of caution and if your gut says not to do it - don't.

Posted by: Monica | January 30, 2006 1:07 PM

I rather like the idea that this discussion become a broader, more inclusive discussion within the parent-teacher community...and I nominate BusyMom to be the moderator.

If BusyGirl wants an Internet presence, I would not discourage her, but at the same time I would be looking for something more appropriate and better moderated (that would rule out MySpace).

it's a hard call to make. for the kids that you found searching their real names, you might want to shoot an email to the parents saying, hey i found johnny on myspace. did you know he had a page? having real names up on there is dangerous. and if any of the kids have sexy or dirty pictures, you should definitely let the parents know. the kids could get in real trouble that way, and maybe their parents don't know. i mean, i would never have told my parents if i had a page like that when i was a kid.

Oh, tell them...but you don't have to sound judgemental (even if you are...). If they know and approve, that's their responsibility to monitor. If they don't know or wouldn't approve, they will thank you.

I just researched my niece and found her myspace account. The one where she lied about her age. Despite the fact I'd like to be a cool auntie, I prefer to have a living niece that's ticked off at me.

I don't think, by the way, that the parents have given up parenting. I really believe it's the effect of what they see their older siblings watch/read/do...I could always tell which of my students had older siblings because of the music they liked and the shows they watched. Always.

My daughter is seven and has her own computer in her room and her own website. When I tell people this they generally look at me like I'm some kind of idiot. But that's just what you see on the surface.

Her website has a blog... That she doesn't have access to. In order to post, I have to log her in and approve what she writes first. I do allow comments for now but all are moderated and are sent to my email address. The only one that's ever responded anyway is her Papa.

She also has an email address. Again, she doesn't have the logon info or the password and all email is forwarded to my address. Her grandma and cousin are the only ones that email her.

I also have data logging software like the one mentioned by Mimi above. It logs any websites she goes too and what she's doing there.

So far she's only gone to sites listed in her favorites as that's our rule. On the rare occasion she hears of a new site or sees it on TV we first go to it together and then if I think it's okay, I add it to her favorites.

No chat software, no google, FOR SURE no MySpace. I want my daughter to be able to learn and take advantage of all the GOOD things on the internet. But I am aware that there are PLENTY of bad things. And I will do all I can to prevent her from being exposed to those.

I have a MySpace account and I only "friend" people I know in real life and family members. The only way I'd allow a sixth grader to get one is if I was monitoring her email, it was set to only viewable by friends, and I had full access to the account (being ale to log on to read private messages). It might not be considered 'cool' by all her friends, but it allows her to have the account. And as she gets older and is more responsible and earns your trust, you can start to give her more room and privacy.

My toddler's Godmum (she's Welsh) has 13YO, daughter & 10YO Son. She limits them to 1 messenger service (her choice). The kids' computers are in the living room, NOT in their bedrooms and every night she skims the conversations/postings & history so she's aware of what's going on. They've set parental controls on the systems, but are sure to check them frequently because, let's face it, these kids are quick to figure out how to get around all of it. And these are "good" kids. It sounds like a lot of work and it is, but as a parent it's her job to protect her kids.
I would mention to the parents about their kids pages (just in case they don't know) and be sure to let them know how easily you found a couple of them. I would guess it's more of a case of "not my kid" then anything else. But even if they think it's ok, I'd rather not have the whole "I should've said something hanging over my head".

As someone who was once a therapist and still works with kids I think it is so crucial to monitor kids from early on. In this day and age when most families have the internet, it is sooo important to know what your kids are doing online. There are way too many predators out there and kids don't know that.
My neighbor had her youngest while her eldest was in high school. She never did put limits on her youngest daughter and now her daughter is out of control as a high schooler. Being the cool parent has its consequences as her and her husband are learning now.

Kiddy blogging has concerned me since the first page I saw. I don't know the one you mentioned, but there are many(pull up Xanga for instance) . If you type in "special interests" and your town, you will get a list of local people...all ages..with photos and comments like "I need love". Very very frightening. Also, these kids are writing as if to a private diary (ie..my folks thought we were at Stacy's house, but we really went to the movie...)Also, the comments sections are sometimes "slam books". How bad is that for their self esteem...you have hit on a hot topic that involves much more than good parenting versus bad. It is a nation wide problem that seems to be going unnoticed. Bottom line...I don't know what to do, but it is a dangerous past time. Sue

Posted by: Sue | January 30, 2006 2:44 PM

I'd steer clear of the whole My Space and Xanga thing...it is just too much public stuff for kids that can't quite handle it yet.

I have a 14 year old niece (A.) who has a friend in a similar situation - she has siblings quite a bit older then her, and this girls parents let her have a couple of drinks at home when she wants. Just the other day they offered some to A. Thankfully A is a pretty responsible kid and went home and asked her parents if it would be ok and they, of course, said no. I wondered if maybe these parents weren't so much done with parenting as maybe they've lost perspective on what is appropriate for younger ages.

Honestly? I'd mention it to the school and urge them to do SOME type of thing on it - talking about how to use stuff like that SAFELY.

Profile sites are becoming a pretty big deal in higher education, but the problem is that most students are on them way before they get to college, so they have this false sense of security because no one has taught them about how to be safe online.

Scary stuff...my 11 y.o. thinks she's going on 25. My husband has controls on her computer to limit her access, and I do not think she has posted anything personal on myspace or any other site, but I plan to talk with her about this. Thanks for the heads up.

Didn't have time to read thru all comments to see if someone said this already but according to My Space, you are supposed to be at least 14 to have a spot! Thank goodness my girls are too young to even ask to be on there!

I use facebook because you have to have a confirmed email address from the school that you're attending before it will let you create an account. It also logs the address used to create the account on the profile, so people can't pretend to be someone else. It's not 100% foolproof, of course, but it's a lot safer than open face sites like myspace.

I have a myspace account, but I'm seriously considering deleting it because of all the news reports about sexual predators using it to stalk teenagers. Given the (numerous) recent security breaches on our (relatively open) campus, that makes me fairly nervous.

While I know you're techno-savvy and can keep Busy Girl out of trouble with supervision and controlling what she writes about herself, you're not in a position to regulate what her friends are doing, if they're putting group pictures of them wearing school-specific clothing or posting otherwise identifiable information about them. Or, worse still, if they decide to use a group outing as a means of meeting up with someone random from that site.

I'd recommend either calling the parents directly or talking to the school about it. The school might be interested in having an online safety forum or some such, especially in light of the recent abduction cases that have been linked to myspace. They may be okay with it, they may not, but at least they'll know.

Posted by: Lauren | January 30, 2006 7:29 PM

My kids won't be allowed on the computer without my supervision. Its just too scary the crap that these kids get into.

Well, I have let my girls get xanga sites. I subscribe to each of their blogs and even to the blogs of their friends so I can keep track of what they are all saying to each other "privately". My girls know that there are rules... no posting personal information, I get to know their passwords and can delete parts at my discretion. To date, I have found it a great way to monitor their feelings and to know what is going on in their lives and those of their friends.

Our babysitter must log on to this when she comes over - not sure when or if the girls are still up when she does...but it is usually in my web history when I check later on.

I think I am going to ask her mom if she knows, to see if she is allowed to access it at home or if she is using our house.

It freaks me out - how much they put out there and having really no idea how awful some people are...

Our local midschool that girlscout will be attending next year has a class for parents about our kids and the internet and in quotes it had 'myspace'. I have a feeling they are very much against it.

I'd like to point out that programs like Child Protect are not a substitute for good parenting. On a technical note, savvy children can get around those programs. On a logical note, they only protect that one computer. Child Protect on your computer doesn't protect your child when they go to a friend's house; only through parenting, open communication and teaching right from wrong can we truly protect our children.

By the same token, passing laws to "protect our children" is equally ridiculous. When a politican tries to pass a law to protect our children from the evils of the Internet, they are simply being self-serving because no law will irradicate the dangers; only parenting can. Laws and software will not keep your child from having sex, taking drugs, drinking, or smoking. Those are decisions left up to the child.

Have you ever talked to your child about the 4 fluids that transmit the aids virus? After dinner last night we did and in front of all the children even though the conversation was mainly with the older two. You aren't protecting them if you rely on outside sources (school/software) to do the protecting.

Just as an aside, there is a great book called "the Birth Order Book" that describes how your birth order in your family shapes your personality. There is a section on large gaps in ages between kids. Very interesting topic.

I have a big age gap between two girls (1 and 7) and I am concerned that the younger one will get exposed to so much more sooner because of her sister. I think the parents can control this. My 7 year-old has two friends that have older siblings in high school. The mother of one definitely encourages the daughter to more grown up and "cool" for her age. The other friend has parents that let their 8 year-old act like an 8-year old.

I hope I don't ever feel like I just want to get this parenting thing done, but I find myself wishing for the day when I can actually make and then eat dinner without having to hold the 1 year old at the same time.

One last thought, my husband is in law enforcement so I hear all the scary online child predator stories. Some parents really just understand that there are some sick people out there.

Posted by: Lisa | January 31, 2006 9:54 AM

I have an only and she is six, after reading this post I went and checked out xanga...
I have a hard time with how many young girls had pages and what they said and the pictures...!

Posted by: rhonda | January 31, 2006 12:16 PM

I just dealt with this a month or so ago.Hannah wanted a blog.I helped her set one up,with the understanding that I would view all the content that she put on there.This worked out fine for awhile,until I happened to be looking in the history for something and saw a page I didn't know wha was.I knew it was a blog but assumed it was one of her friends.I decided to be nosy momma and check it out.Hannah had created herself another blog.She had her full name,her age,date of birth and school name and city location!I was livid.She had several other links on her page to friends sites and I checked them out.They had the same info on theirs.The parents that I knew well,I called them.I told them the kids I didn't know and asked them if they did to call their parents.I know several of her friends have My Space pages.Hannah doesn't.Well,she isn't on the computer at all anymore.Her privileges were taken away with our discovery.Good luck.
Sorry this was so long.

I understand completely. I, too, have two college ages daughters and then a second grader. My second grader has always been around the older girls and wanted to be like them. She was 6 going on 16. It is harder when you get older to keep up or else you just think you know everything about parenting. Or mayber, you think, my older ones turned out alright, so the younger will too.

Posted by: Tami | January 31, 2006 5:32 PM

My oldest is 18 and she does have a myspace account. My youngest is 2.5 and I also have a 10 year old and a 13 year old. The 13 and 10 year olds have extremely limited access to the computer, much less the Internet. In fact, my oldest and I were just talking about myspace and the 13 year old asked what that is. That's just fine with me! I'm trying to raise kids, not be their friend. The oldest has unlimited Internet access because she's earned it. She tells me about what she does who she talks to and she's smart about it, if not, I'd still be monitoring her.
As far as telling the other parents, I would seriously consider it. As someone above said, you don't want to be in a situation where you wish you would have said something but now it's too late. JMHO.

Did you read Stargazer's comment about "My Space." This comment is in relation to a girl who died in an accident at her school.

http://teacherwoman.typepad.com/about_me/2006/01/not_a_gem_of_a_.html

Please read this. You might have more opionions about "My Space."

My boss' daughter (7th grade) has a My Space. However, she's shared that with her mom and her mom (my boss) reads her site at least weekly and monitors for personal info. Of course, her mom is a IT professional in healthcare so the concept of information security is NO stranger to her. I'd be worried if I knew she had the site and that her mom didn't know though

Tell the parents. I know I would want to know if my son was doing that, and I'm sure they would too. Kids need to be informed about the harsh realities - someone could find them using their names, etc. - and at that age, they are old enough to know. My son knows he isn't supposed to give out certain information - full name, where he lives, etc. - and while he is allowed to use the computer without supervision, we have key loggers and other secret spy things in place to keep an eye on him.

It still scares me, but if I don't teach him here at home about Internet safety, I can't expect anyone else to do it.

I think you have really missed the boat on this story. The comment about the youngest person in the Family quote is silly at best. I remember when Chat rooms were a problem then it was Napster the mp3 site now the myspace bashing? Where will it all end.

Kids need something to do besides play'n video games. Thats a bigger story than myspace hating.

Posted by: david | February 1, 2006 3:28 AM

My 15 yr old has a MySpace account . When she first started talking about it I asked her what the url was and checked it out myself. Most of it was harmless however I did ask her to remove the 50 question "survey" she had filled out which contained way too much personal info. She informed me just yesterday that she had even set it to private so only the people she has set as "friends" can see it. I am setting up an account this afternoon just so I can check out. I'm not too worried about her since she does have a deep seated fear in stalkers and she fully understands that what she writes reflects who she is.

Afer reading all the comments last night I asked her this morning if there was anything on her MySpace that she wouldn't want me to read and she said that a few of her friends write some crude things and if they are out of hand she has deleted them.

11 is too young. But as long as your kids knows how to responsibly use their MySpace account, know not to put too much personal info out there and don't mind random parental monitoring I beleive it can be a good communication tool and an outlet for their creativity. But the key is that the parents need to be aware and involved to an extent.

My girls are 4, 9 and 11. The older two have a yahoo account, but under restrictions because they are minors. I used my credit card and since they are under 13, they are not listed in the directory and we have the understanding that I know exactly who is on their list (mostly family and a few friends). They are not allowed into any chatrooms or such. I fully monitor what they do online. It is in the living room and I am always over their backs watching. They do not surf the net. If it's a project or something for school WE do it together. The internet is not safe. And it's a real shame that we can't trust the internet for our children.

Posted by: Beth | February 1, 2006 10:01 PM

I comment here regularly but want to anonymously say that myspace has caused serious serious problems in our household. Like :life changing:

Anyone who is monitoring your kids' accounts, make sure you are not just a "buddy" who can see all their comments, but you have to have their password so you can see all their messages. Buddies don't have access to their inbox and take it from someone who knows, there is a lot going on there. Seriously, I think myspace is a very very very bad thing.

Posted by: a regular | February 3, 2006 9:09 PM

I just found out about myspace.com last night. A friend I've known for 30+ years has to grown, adult children who have stuff up on myspace.com

It reminded me of the "night club" scene. Where you go out and party and try to find a date. Just seemed like a scarey place for a child, no matter the age, to be. I appreciate you posting your concerns, maybe it'll make other parents aware of the space. I heard, on another blog, I can't remember which one...that a lot of child predators lurk on myspace.com

Just an FYI...the Connecticut Attorney General's office has announced plans to investigate services like MySpace and their level of protection, or lack thereof, for kids who use the site.