The number and variety of social media sites, often times overwhelm parents when attempting to monitor their child’s online interactions. However, no matter how difficult – the safety of our children is non-negotiable.
As parents we spend time teaching our children to beware of strangers, but in this age of technology they are easily connecting with people they have never met. Smart Phones, Computers, Video Games, or any other device with Internet Access give children access to the world and the world access to them.
One site that is gaining in popularity amongst teens is Meetme.com. Meetme.com formerly known as Myyearbook.com claims to have 90 million members and is described as a “social networking site for teens.” One important features of meetme.com that cause me to pause is that the social network recommends people to connect with based on where the child lives. A recent poll in Florida found 314 sexual predators within a 5-mile radius of a specific zip code. Some Meetme.com members have live webcams, where predators reportedly solicit videos and photos. “It’s terrifying. Parents don’t know how much danger their children are in,” stated Detective Bill Lindsey with the Cyber Crimes Unit at the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.
Unfortunately teens sometimes feel they are invincible and will offer too much information online, which provides predators with a direct line to them. One such story comes from 18-year-old Alexis Carrascos. At the age of 16, Alexis met her boyfriend through what she thought was a coincidence. Later she learned that he had actually stalked her on Facebook through photos she tagged online with mutual friends.
“If I could go back and un-tag myself in all those locations I would. It could have saved me a lot of trouble, a lot of heartache, a lot of lessons I think I learned too early in life,” stated Alexis. Three-months into the relationship, Alexis learned that her boyfriend had lied about his age and he became violent, from grabbing her to punching walls. The end of the relationship, ended with her filing a restraining order against him.
Bottomline: Parents must be vigilante with monitoring their child’s online interactions. The harsh truth is that often times, a child’s “offline behavior” spills over to their Internet activity. Communication is a simple remedy. Openly talking about expectations, dangers, self-esteem and consequences could save you and your child a life-time of heart ache.
Marlin Page is a Globetrotting Speaker and Founder of Sisters Code – empowering women and girls in STEM and Life. As Chief Technology Mommy, Marlin shares and exposes online safety stories, tips, and technology information to keep parents informed and children safe on the Internet. Marlin also serves as a speaker for Microsoft’s Global DigiGirlz Program and Camp and Technology Strategist for a variety of corporations and organizations.
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