Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Internet's White Panel Van

When I asked for blog topics (HERE) back in March, Mr. Smith was quick to chime in asking me to write about my search for a convent for the year 2030.
On a similar note, Puff has probably already begun shopping for shotguns. If Bimmer is half as cute as Puff and I are, we're going to have our hands full. ::insert proud Mama grin::
Which is why I already have the distinct urge to protect her from all the lunatics out there in this world. And the internet just makes it that much easier to access those crazies. Perhaps I spend too much time watching Criminal Minds-CSI-Law & Order-Snapped, but I don't think you can ever be too careful. So, here's hoping I raise a daughter who makes a few wiser decisions than I did in my misspent youth.
The internet was a pretty new thing when I was in high school. I got my first email account when I was a freshman and that was via AOL, so there wasn't the mass availability like there is today. There weren't social networking sites. There weren't blogs. If you wanted to "meet" someone online, you found them in chatrooms or via profile searches, where there was only as much information as you chose to fill into the few categories available. Of course, I did "meet" some people... Jester and JHoppy and TRMPT... something like that. (It amazes me what I remember!) They were all (supposedly) boys roughly my age from around the country whom I would email and talk to via AIM every so often. It was actually a good lesson for me in building confidence in talking to someone of the opposite sex. Especially since I wasn't getting that attention I so desperately craved from the boys in my everyday life. But we didn't have pictures to share and all they knew about my whereabouts was the name of the closest big city.
Sure, over the following years, I would meet several men through AOL and kept in touch with some of them for years. I met some in person, dated some, befriended others. And we may or may not have lured one to our dorm junior year and watched him through the window in the courtyard. (Poor guy!) Was it wise of me to do that? Probably not. But hey... had I not taken that leap of faith, I never would've met Puff either! So, sometimes it does turn out OK. However... that was OK since I was in my late twenties and had some experience under my belt.
Nowadays, kids can meet people anywhere online. And they're not all smart about it. I'm not saying my way was the best way, but since the technology wasn't as good as it is now, it was harder to access specific information about others. To be quite honest, Facebook scares me. Case and point... a high-school aged female relative. She has a Facebook page, of course. I am not friends with her and neither is Puff. (Don't really need her reading stuff our crew of friends might post!) More than a year ago, I expressed my concern to a relative about this. It was shrugged off, saying that she's a good kid. Well, of course she's a good kid. But that doesn't mean that some creepy male stalker out there isn't prowling for innocent young girls.
So... what worries me about her Facebook page? First of all, it's not set as private. No one should have an open page these days, unless you're a business. I'm sorry, but that's just plain stupid. And using very rudimentary internet search skills, I can find her first and last name, the town she lives in, where she goes to school, what sport she plays, what activities she's in, her birthday, photos of her, and links to all of her friends. In a matter of seconds. It doesn't matter if you are the most innocent, sweet, smart, well-rounded kid in the world. If you are a teenage girl giving out that much free information to anyone who has a Facebook account, you're just not being safe. And as a former teenage girl in the dawning of the internet, I know that men will find you... whether you want them to or not. And that was even without freely offering up any of that type of information in a public profile.
I know that just because I am about to become a parent doesn't make me a connoisseur of parental decisions. But sometimes you don't need to be a parent to see something so blatantly scary and potentially harmful. I share a lot in this blog... but I have never shared my name, my specific town, my job, Puff's job, photos of us or the outside of our home, our cars, etc. The internet is a great and wonderful tool. But maybe we need to start monitoring it a little better when the safety of our youth is involved. For sure, Bimmer will know the pitfalls. And there will be consequences if she doesn't abide.
I'm doing it because I love her.

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