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Friday, July 15, 2011

The need for parental guidance on Online Social friendships bloom

Sure you have heard of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, My Space, Ning, Tagged, Orkut, myyearbook, meetup, hi5, bebo, mylife, friendseter, badoo & more…………..    – social networking platforms.  May be you are already member of many of these or perhaps all of them.

Studies reveal that the no. of people who log on the Facebook daily is more than that of the population of some countries put together.  The modern day children exhibit compulsive impulse to log on to these at every possible moment..

For those uninformed, [are there really any one !!] -  social networking service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, who, for example, share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user known as profile,  his/her social links, and a variety of additional services.  As these provide facility of instant messaging, e-mail users are said to be outdated. 

Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc.  As of July 2011, Facebook has more than 750 million active users.  You need to have a e-mail account and can create your facebook profile.  The log in would be your e-mail id and you will have a password.  Once profile is created, you can add friends and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile.  By rule, one has to be an adult for having a Facebook account – still almost all school children have a facebook account by simply manipulating their DOB.   Users can also join common interest user groups. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow computer science students.

You might be surprised to know that initially the website's membership was  limited to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities before opening to high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over but there are reports that there are millions of accounts of  children under 13  violating the site's terms.

The way you expand your network is simple – you add a friend by sending an invite or accepting an invite – it can be a friend of your friend, or those users of your e-mail group, or of your locality, of your school, of your workplace, of common interest and so on.  There could always be invitations from ‘unknown’ – whose face or profile or interests are not known or are not real for sure.. in the initial zeal, it is possible one would accept all invitations and live in a surrealistic world.

There is news that a  suburban Detroit woman is suing a Washington state man for  $8,386.88 in damages after a failed Facebook romance. Fifty-year-old Cheryl Gray of Livonia filed the civil lawsuit in May against 35-year-old Wylie Iwan of Kennewick, Wash., claiming misrepresentation, defamation of character and other charges. She seeks repayment for gifts she bought during their six-month relationship, including a digital camera and Seattle Mariners’ home opener tickets.

Going by the reports it all started with the game ‘Mafia Wars’ but they are at real wars.  It is reported that she bought a plane ticket for meeting – whether there can be a law suit for a broken heart ?  

The woman claims to have been humiliated with vulgar comments posted on her Facebook wall.  In all possibility, the man will have a different tale to narrate.   Whether the can be judgment on the love quarrel is the Q  -  there is another complex angle of jurisdiction.  Which Court will have jurisdiction on something happening on cyberspace ?  

On what could be something to learn for outsiders, it is stated that Iwan created a special group page and invited her to join, which was accessible to only group members and thus was a secret page.  It is stated that she spent an hour plus in the morning online and three, four, five, eight hours at night every day. [how much time do you spend online ? and how much time does your children do that ? do you  monitor them ??]

Now after the failed friendship there is  civil suit in Michigan for misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

What will happen to the law suit may not ever be of interest to us – but for all the parents, there is imperative need that license should never be allowed to be converted as liberty and parental guidance and monitoring, perhaps might still be needed on some matters, especially where they could go wrong without understanding the implications.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar

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