Internet danger is one of those things that we see on TV and read in the paper and never believe it could touch us so close to home. It happens to other people, other girls, children who don’t have involved, hands-on parents. Surely it could never touch our own family. We are careful. We have online restrictions in place and monitor our children’s emails and have final approval for anyone they want to talk to online. We’re good. We’ve done our part.
My 12 year old daughter has a computer in her room. I know, I know, there are lots of parents and educators who’ll say that children shouldn’t have computers in their rooms. The common philosophy is that they should be in public places in full view of the parents. But, we are a very technology oriented family. We have computers, laptops, cell phones, DVD players, TV’s and any number of iPods and Nintendo DS’. We made the decision that our daughter is responsible enough to have a computer in her bedroom. She uses it almost daily for homework and we don’t have the kind of house that has a central family room suitable for a computer.
When her computer was acting up one day, my husband sat down to work his magic. As he was trying to figure out why her computer was acting up, a message popped up through Skype. Someone wanted to chat. Someone who happened to be an adult male who was asking a string of questions, mainly “How old are you?”
When you are slapped in the face with something completely inappropriate towards your child, the feeling of anger is overwhelming. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to good families. It doesn’t happen to MY kids. And more importantly… how the hell does something like this happen to MY daughter?
My husband lashed back and wrote back that he was the “Father” and if this guy ever tries to contact our daughter again, he would notify the police.
I understand the anger… the rage… the desire to jump through the computer and strangle someone. The emotion takes over and all rationale flies out the window. While he did was out of pure anger, I kind of wish he had thought it through. If this guy was trying to talk to my daughter, imagine how many other girls he was trying to get to. I kind of wish he had engaged the guy. I kind of wished he had pretended to be my daughter. I kind of wish we had proof this guy was a child predator. I wanted to bring this guy down. Hard.
We asked our girls if this had happened before. It had, but our daughter always just hit delete and never interacted with the people she didn’t know. How does someone get a child’s Skype address? She never posted it publicly anywhere, which makes me wonder if he got it from one of her friends. And that leads me to wonder if this is happening to the girls she knows and regularly does chat with.
It is so easy to see how a young girl would be swayed by an older man. It makes me nauseous.
While we didn’t freak out and take her computer away, we did make it a point to review all the restrictions on it as best we could. We also made it a point to talk with all of our girls about the dangers of being online. Every time I hear about another child who was abducted, another runaway, another abusive teenage relationship… I sit my girls down and share until I’m blue in the face. I want to scare them. I want them to be afraid when they get a call or a email or a text from someone they don’t know.
I’m lucky that my kids are still young and naive enough to not realize that their parents have their passwords and can check their computers any time we want. They have no idea how easy it is to get into a computer’s history and check every web page they’ve visited. They may call it an invasion of privacy. I call it keeping my children safe. Something I will do at all costs. If you think it can’t happen to your family, you’re wrong. It can and does happen everyday… to people just like us.