Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Internet can be a Very Scary Place

I have been on the Internet since I was in the 5th grade. I am 31 now so it was pretty new back then. I started out on Prodigy when it was just message boards. Looking back now I realized that I was a possible victim of solicitation of a minor. I remember  when I was on Prodigy, a guy asked me what my bra size was. I had no clue I was a naive kid. I said 50. No letter just 50. When I got AOL in the 7th grade I started going in to chat rooms. These were just town square rooms. I was 13. I would talk to these guys who I thought liked me. I felt special because they were like 17. I remember one in particular who was 17 or 18 could have been older. He told me that he had a sister my  age and I chatted with her. I never questioned if she was real or him on a screen name. I just thought it was so cool that this guy was talking to me. I am sure that is a common feeling for girls that age. He lived in Lakeland Florida and I lived in the suburbs in a nice community in Indiana.

There were other guys that would talk to me, some not so appropriately.  They weren't totally vulgar but more sneakily vulgar. There was definitely grooming going on too. That's basically where they get you to trust them and are really nice to you. The good thing is that they were all over the country and I wasn't stupid enough to send pictures of my body. Even good girls can be fooled. It is so important to monitor your children online. I hate to say it but trust is not enough. You can trust your child but you can't trust the other person. It doesn't matter what the kid says it could be all a lie. Pictures don't mean anything. Anyone can pretend to look like someone online. Teach your children when it comes to people online to trust no one.  I don't care if they are nice. It doesn't matter if they are cute. You don't talk to strangers when they offer you candy. You don't have private convos with strangers online. Even if they say they are a nun.

It really concerns me because even though we know more about online predators and pedophiles, with social media and everyone feeling the need to share every location and thing they are doing, it's really harmful. I see that kids have Facebook and Twitter who shouldn't. People are posting their private business with the masses. I think that Facebook and Twitter should tighten up their age requirement. Facebook and Twitter should require an actual way to verify age. Parents need to install monitoring software. This is not a trust issue. It is not a oh my kid is a good kid and wouldn't do that issue. It's a safety measure. If your perfect little angel becomes a victim of an Internet crime including bullying. You need a record. You need to be able to know who these people are in case there is something that needs your attention. If your child decides to meet someone online you need to know who this person is just in case. Some kind of contact number or an ip. Just having your computer in an open space isn't enough you can't watch them like a hawk all the time.

Your child probably will be mad if you monitor them with software. They may question if you trust them. You might have an argument over it. It's not a trust issue it's for their safety and when they are a parent they will understand and probably thank you. They will look back and think wow I really was fearless and did a lot of stupid things. Just as I did. I was totally fearless. I was a good polite kid and I did a lot of stupid stuff that people probably thought I wouldn't do. I thought I was invincible and nothing could hurt me.

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