None of us are dumb. We know what this Internet offers. Endless information. An amazing connection to people all around the world.
Here are some random messages I've received on Facebook in the last while. I should mention that my facebook profile has all privacy settings cranked up. These people are not my 'friends' on Facebook. These guys found me by...trawling.
This first guy is actually a "mutual friend" to two of my facebook friends.
GROOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSS, right? Totally and utterly gross. And I'm not just talking about their grammar and punctuation, either. (Or one of their profile info statements: "
This kind of stuff never bothered me too much until I met a girl during a school visit--a 16 year old--who actually goes and meets guys like this in person. Yeah. Her friend does it too. She couldn't tell me why, really. She said it's fun. Just like that. "It's fun."
Sarah Darer Littman, who wrote WANT TO GO PRIVATE?
I bought the book and I read it.
If you don't think creepers like those guys up there can do harm, or are trying to, then you need to read this book. It was compelling, horrifying, sad, creepy and, after I met the 16-year-old girl I mentioned above, I realized it's downright realistic. You don't have to be dumb to talk to strangers online. You don't have to be desperate or weird or anything. Sometimes it happens--and when it does, a lot of people blame the victim for being "stupid" rather than blame the creepers for preying on women and girls on the Internet.
If you're someone who doesn't report these creepers, then please start. They may not harm you, but they exist to find someone who will answer. In school there are Internet safety classes that teach kids about this stuff. And in WANT TO GO PRIVATE, the character also had those classes. She knew answering her creeper was against everything her teachers had taught her. But she did it anyway. She needed an ear. She needed someone who was on her side. Who understood her. Who thought she was beautiful.
Which brings me to this.
Getting a Facebook page is like a rite of passage now. I wasn't allowed to get my ears pierced until I was 17. I remember seeing all those other kids with earrings and feeling so bummed that I had to wait. Now, my kid is asking me, "When can I get a Facebook page?"
The legal age for being on Facebook is 13.
I will be one of those awful parents who will make my kids wait. During our waiting time, I will talk as much as I can to them about what can happen on the Internet. Back when my mom talked to me about the dangers of earrings, it was the era of big hoops. The worst that could happen to me was ripping my earlobe.
Something tells me my conversations about Facebook will be far...creepier.