I’ve made a few posts recently about children and the stupidity of parents these days. If you didn’t read them (shame on you) you can find them here and here. To save you some time though, they’re basically a commentary on parents too busy with their own lives to pay any attention to their kids, and those kids doing something they shouldn’t have been doing thanks to a lack of supervision.
As usual, when you notice a problem you soon find other similar ones like the situation described in this news report. It seems that parents don’t actually know what their kids are getting up to online, and that many of these kids are members of social networks like this one. In some cases that’s a good thing. After all, being part of a close knit group of people and chatting about things that mean something to us is way better for kids than going out and getting drunk, and may educate them about the world. But the internet is still a dangerous place for kids, especially those teens that feel invincible and start putting photos of themselves up as well as their locations and other personal facts. It wouldn’t take long for someone online to build a profile of someone else from the little tidbits of information picked up here and there. A school name, a photo and the place they work a weekend job could easily help pinpoint exactly where a child lives and put them at risk.
Consider the following:-
While working as an admin on another site I was asked by one of my friends why I gave her daughter a warning simply for mentioning her school by name. I responded by telling her the name of her school, what newsagents she delivers papers for on a Saturday morning, her full name, her age, the street they live on, the town they live in and which supermarket the family regularly shops at. All of this was information I’d seen in the public chat window when I’d entered the room (I’d been called by someone in the room who was responsible and didn’t want her giving so much information away). In the wrong hands all of that information could have put her in a lot of danger – danger that she didn’t anticipate because it’s just online. Not like someone’s gonna track her down eh?
It does sound like an extreme possibility, but would any parent want to take the risk? You wouldn’t let your children give out personal information to a stranger in the street, so why would you let them to a stranger online? What proof do you have that the ten year old girl your daughter seems to be talking to isn’t really a sexual predator? None whatsoever is the answer. You may think these things are rare, but we live in a sick world – on one side of the globe a mother is arrested in connection to her own daughter’s kidnap while elsewhere police are searching for a man who forced young children to fight viciously for a Youtube video, and no parent should take that risk.
I know there’s quite a few parents out there that want to be responsible and stop a nightmare situation like that but don’t know the first place to start. For those people I’ll recommend following the link to Childnet’s safety tips for parents. It’s aimed at parents of children who spend time online. It’s a good selection of tips and rules, and even recognises the fact that mobile phones can surf the web with some tips for that event. You’ll also find links to other places that may help you.