MYSPACE NOT ‘FOR FRIENDS’ ONLY, AHS URGES STUDENTS TO REALIZE RISKS is a website that has taken Ames High by storm. As its slogan says, MySpace is “a place for friends.” Anyone can go through a short and free registration process to join the online community and create a profile. Profiles are easily customizable and can include descriptions of the user’s interests, photos of the user, and comments from the user’s friends. Right now, there are 420 current Ames High students on MySpace—from that kid who sits behind you in English to The WEB itself. Many students have joined MySpace for the opportunity to communicate with friends. “MySpace is just a way to have fun,” junior Alicia Wengert said. “It’s another hobby to pass the time and talk to friends.” While many students regard MySpace as just another aspect of the Internet to warmly welcome into their lives, there have been recent concerns about the safety of MySpace and similar websites. These concerns come from the idea that anyone, including school administrators, college admissions officers, and employers can look at the profiles on MySpace. This is an issue because, since the main purpose of the site is to communicate with friends, some users post inappropriate material. While this may be a form of self-expression, it may also be grounds for suspension, or it may keep a student from getting into college or getting a job. But Associate Principal Mike Avise said such instances of discipline have not been an issue at Ames High. “These issues haven’t come up because right now our main focus is on educating students about the risks,” he said. The Ames High administration and media center staff agree that teaching students about the risks of MySpace is an even bigger issue than its potential for unlawful behavior. Just as influential people and college officials can view a MySpace profile, so can sexual predators. According to media technologist Nicole Harding, students do not fully realize the dangers of MySpace. “The main concern is that students are unaware of just how much information they are giving out online,” she said. “When students post information like what school they go to, their photos, their last names, and what track meets they’ll be at, they are giving up a lot of information about who they are and where they go.” However, these warnings may not be enough to discourage students’ use of MySpace and similar sites. “I wouldn’t stop using MySpace,” junior Rohan Agarwal said. “I would just take precautions and be careful of what I put on my profile.” For those who want to stay connected with friends through MySpace, Harding suggested that they create an alternative identity that would only be shared with friends. Another possible solution would be to make a profile only visible to the user’s friends, a feature that is available on MySpace and other online communities. While students are not permitted to log on to MySpace and similar websites during the school day, the administration said it has realized that students will access the sites somehow, and it will be working to educate students about risks associated with MySpace and other forms of online communication. MySpace has provided students with a convenient way to keep in touch with friends, but the Ames High administration and staff urge students to use discretion when posting information on the Internet. According to them, students must remember that MySpace is not just “a place for friends.”