"A Means of Testing Various Identities"
Larry D. Rosen, professor of psychology in California, studies the teenagers on My Space
By Frederique ROUSSEL
Liberation
Saturday August 19, 2006

Dr. Larry D. Rosen, professor of psychology at the University of California, studies the population teenager of My Space.

How do you explain that so many adolescents go on MySpace or other social networking websites?

Adolescence is a time for forging friendships. It is a period of life where friends, and interaction with friends, are the top priority.  In earlier generations, spending time with friends was done, at least in America, at shopping store malls, soda shops, street corners, etc.  Now, many of those options are gone due to the change in families (mothers no longer are at home after school) and the change in the social climate which makes it more difficult, and sometimes scarier, to find safe gathering places.  MySpace provides the perfect environment for adolescents to enjoy all the communication they can handle in their safe home.

How much time do they spend on MySpace?

My work shows that they are spending upwards of 2 hours per day with some spending 3 or more.  Much of that time is between the hours of 5 PM and Midnight.

Do they stay on MySpace or do they leave to other websites when they get older?

MySpace is so new that there hasn't been enough time to track the flow in and out.  However, there are many post-adolescents on MySpace (the estimates are that half are under 18 and half over 18).  Some college students have chosen to populate social networking sites geared toward blogging (LiveJournal) or those geared toward more social activities such as FaceBook or Xanga.

There is a big debate about sexual predators in United State and do you think MySpace is dangerous for teens?

There are two major issues here. The first is the amount of sexual predators and the second is how teens are dealing with them if, and when, they meet up in cyberspace.  First, recent research by the Crimes Against Children Research Center and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that the number of sexual solicitations has gone down in the past 5 years. My research shows that there are very few sexual solicitations on MySpace.  Second, both research projects have shown that nearly all children simply block the person, "yell" at him online or perform some other responsible, appropriate action.  In addition, most are not upset by the event at all.  This, to me, is critical. Our teens are savvier about how to deal with these potential problems than we give them credit for.  One final note:  MySpace is the 11th largest country in the world, having just passed Mexico.  In a country of over 100,000,000 people one would expect that some would act out in a sexual manner.  Luckily, our kids are so technologically savvy and experiences that they are quite capable of dealing with the few that are out there online.

Do you think MySpace has a positive effect for the teens that spend time on it?

Absolutely!  Where else can these teens find a safe place to communicate with friends and others?  Psychologically, adolescence is a time where teens are searching for their identity.  They can and do use MySpace as a way to try out and practice various identities which in other situations they would have to do face-to-face at school or an after-school gathering place.  With the anonymity of being "behind the screen" and the feeling of disinhibition of not being visible to people, MySpacers are given a golden opportunity to do this exploration in an environment that allows them to experiment with few real-world consequences.  In addition, it helps broaden their social circle globally and provides them with much-needed venues for expressing their opinions.

Google has put a lot of money in MySpace to have a presence.  Why are such communities coveted by companies?

MySpace is a gold mine!  Rupert Murdoch is a savvy businessman and people doubted his sanity when he bought a large stake in MySpace a few years back.  Google is also a smart company and they realize that MySpace provides a golden opportunity to capture a large part of the market with major purchasing power and direct them to their sites. For example, someone on MySpace who wants to purchase a CD can go to Froogle and find the best price which then benefits Google.  Google would not pay such a huge price if they did not expect to recoup their expenditure.