With the new Twilight film recently released in cinemas and a generation of Vampire loving kids growing up, I thought I'd take a look at a popular social networking website called VampireFreaks.com.
This website, is primarily aimed at teens aged 13 and over, who are interested in Gothic & other subcultures. Like Facebook, the website has features such as the ability to join groups, add friends and chat to each other but there are also paid features of the website too. Paying members have the ability to join more “cults” (groups), upload more pictures – 500 instead of 50, and Powerbomb “unwanted” members. This involves clicking on a member that only has a free membership and “damaging” them with a point. If the free member receives 10 damage points within a month then they will be suspended for 15 days.
As a basic member, I have access to join cults or create one of my own and I can also view the message boards and enter chat rooms (after a few days of signing up to prevent trolling I guess). After looking at the message boards for a short while in the “Advice” section, it came to my conclusion that this was being used as a place for extremely depressed members to try and seek guidance from others, or possibly just to look for attention. One member talks about cutting herself all the time and another talks about someone stalking both herself and her twin, whom their parents allow the stalker to come into the house as he claims he just wanted to be friends. When I clicked to enter a chat room, I was presented with a few options as to which one I wanted to enter. I had the choice of entering a 13-17 (under 18) room, an 18+ room or a 21+ room to name a few. My concern is, how do VF prevent users from entering the wrong chat rooms?
What's worrying about this website, is like Facebook, younger members can lie about their age, and could potentially gain access to other areas of the message boards for areas that are 18+. It also mentions in the websites FAQs that due to the large amount of users, they are unable to moderate the website, however if they receive abuse reports they will respond to those. They (the website) don't seem to have any real issues with bullying on the site either, for example one of the questions in the FAQ section says:
“Q. help, somebody is being mean to me, they hurt my feelings.”“A. stop whining you pussy. you can easily block people from commenting on your profile or emailing you. you simply click the "block this user" button on their profile. but if someone is an obvious asshole to multiple people, we will delete them, but if you keep bothering us with your personal drama we will delete you. Report assholes to the admin inbox.”
There have been several controversies surrounding this website too. Like other websites such as Facebook, Myspace etc, it has been used by paedophiles to contact younger members and arrange meeting up in real life. In other cases, some young members have been murdered by other deluded members on the website http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=765b7ad8-e00a-49a1-9d72-d3d35e5c2627.
So my advice to parents with kids who may come across this website by watching the films such as Twilight, I'd either block the website or check what they are viewing on there regularly.
I hope this post has provided some valuable info for you, thanks for reading!