What Kind of Teen Would List ‘Dad’ As His Hero on MySpace?

Kyle

The city’s Department of Health launched its Mindspace program last week, an attempt to reach at-risk teens by creating MySpace pages for fake kids battling common problems. Kyle, for example, is an 18-year-old Asian-American from Flushing who lists his hero as "dad," studies for the SAT, and on a video diary — where he’s played by an actor — confesses to abusing ADD drugs. The DOH hopes kids who identify with the characters will contact mental-health hotlines. "Kids have a good bullshit meter, but it’s very hard to tell these aren’t real teens," says Christopher Lucas, a child psychiatrist at NYU. "What happens when they find out their new ‘friend’ isn’t real?" Myla Harrison, the DOH psychiatrist running the program, says teenage focus groups knew and didn’t care. But what about MySpace? Didn't they ban fake personas after a fake MySpace page notoriously led to the suicide of Megan Meier in October 2006? Not entirely. MySpace reps say they only act if users complain, and Harrison notes that, unlike Meier’s tormentor, these adults are creating MySpace pages to help kids, not hurt them. "Hopefully we’ll be able to reach that at-risk teenager through Mindspace," she says, "so they’ll think twice before ending their life." —Derek L. John