Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Boogeyman Lives in Cyberspace

The internet is a big and scary place, especially for children who are exploring it for the first time. But, kids like to get e-mail.  And, they like to e-mail their friends.  They like to explore the many nooks and crannies of cyberspace.  I, on the other hand, worry about guys in trench coats, sport coats, and tighty-whities lurking just on the other side of the internet connection, laying in wait for unsuspecting and unsupervised tweens.  My fear, though slightly irrational, is not unfounded.  

Recently, a school friend of Lizzie's, whom we'll call Emma, gave Lizzie an e-mail address, which she got from a friend of hers, that Emma said belonged to Miley Cyrus aka "Hannah Montana."  I was instantly suspicious, but I permitted Lizzie to send a single e-mail, with no personal details whatsoever, to the address.  She received a response that immediately made my Momdar go off: Where do you live?  

Of course, I immediately set Lizzie's e-mail filters to delete all incoming e-mail from that address.  She and I also talked about why it's not okay to e-mail some random address even if it is "your idol." We discussed internet luring, what it means and how kids get lulled into giving out personal information.  I know she understands, but I also know she's a little disappointed because she was really hoping to be Miley Cyrus' Pen Pal.  

My worry is that there is another girl out there, whose parents do not monitor her internet use, who is conversing with the person on the other end of that e-mail address and who is giving out personal information that endangers her personal safety.  It makes me worried and afraid because our children are so vulnerable.  They are so open. And those predators out there? They know it.   

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