Thursday, September 18, 2008

I just finished reading Lisa Gardner's latest novel, Say Goodbye. (Eventually I'll learn how to put the icon of the book I'm reading over there-------> under my "Reading" heading. Until then, bear with me.) It's a brutal and disturbing story and I wish I hadn't read it. It's absolutely haunting. I'll spare you the horrid details.

This passage, copied directly from the book, should be sufficient to chill you to the bone:

You think you're safe. You think you're middle class, suburban, the right car, the nice home. You think bad things happen to other people-maybe the poor schmucks in trailer parks where the ratio of kids to registered sex offenders can be as low as four to one.

But not to you, never to you. You're too good for this.

Do you own a computer? Because if you do, I am in your child's bedroom.

Do you have an online personal profile? Because if you do, I know your child's name, pet, and personal hobbies.

Do you have a webcam? Because if you do, I'm right now convincing your child to take off his or her shirt in return for fifty bucks. Just a shirt. What can it hurt? Come on, it's fifty bucks.

I'm not sure why this disturbed me so much. The brutality imposed on the children in this book, taken from actual occurrences, hit me where I'm vulnerable. SweetieDarling has had unsupervised internet access since she was 16. I had the computer out in a public area, where we could walk up and look at what she was doing. When she got a laptop for Christmas, she started using it in her room. It never occurred to me to monitor her activities. (Mother of the Year Award is on it's way) Silas, of course, being only 5, doesn't get past NickJr. But what of the future? How will I protect him?

My worry is that our children are growing up in a culture that I am not familiar with. They are growing up with constant and instant communication. They will forge friendships and build relationships with people that they never see in person. I worry that they will forget how to interact personally. Not having grown up in this type of culture, I worry that I won't be able to protect them or teach them to protect themselves.

How do you send your love through a text message or myspace page?


the cubicle's backporch said...

It IS scary to think about and I don't even have kids! I used to worry about my brothers and sisters and my mom gave them the "be safe on the internet" speech.

There's a story in Cosmo this month about a psychologist who works with child molestors. One guy was put in prison for forcing his OWN toddler sons to perform oral sex on him. It's a scary world out there.

Twisting Ivy said...

Remind me not to read that book then? =S

It is scary. The best we can do is educate them on online safety and monitor them as long as possible until we feel somewhat assured they will use good judgement.

And if SweetieDarling is on Facebook or Myspace, I would make sure her profile is set on private, she doesn't reveal personal identifying info on there, and hopefully she only adds people she actually knows.

Lynette said...

It's scary to know that kids are so open on the internet and don't always know what they are doing.

Candy said...

We did the same thing. Computer was and is in the living room. But she got a laptop a few years back and now she does whatever (especially since she's at college). My 15 year old son has a computer in his room now, but I'm relatively certain he's only playing video games on it (unless he's up at 3AM...which I'd know because I don't get a lot of sleep).

Anyway...point is...I'm not sure what my point is. There are sick people in the world. Arm your kids with knowledge of them. Teach them to be disrespectful of authority. Show them they can't trust anyone. It's the only way to keep them safe.

I'm punchy and tired at 4:47 in the afternoon, so I am aware that didn't make much sense, but you know what I mean I bet. We grew up believing that grown-ups were there to help us and teachers and policemen could be trusted. The world isn't that black and white anymore. I almost rather my kids trust no one but me.

Madness said...

Oh wow gee .. now Madness wont sleep for days! Max and me recently went to the sex offender registry and now we LITERALLY cant bring ourselves to let the kids play outside with standing out there with our VICIOUS DOGS and every hand gun we own.
For reals. Ok maybe not .. but it seems like thats what we need to do. Thank god for VICIOUS DOGS to protect our babies .. even if VICIOUS DOGS are really two 6 month old RETARDED sharpei's HA HA HA

Vanessa said...

Chilling indeed. I don't know the best answer other than yes it is a scary world and yes something will shift that will make it safer somehow. Maybe better computer monitoring? Better tracking to catch people like this? I don't know, but surely it must get better.

cathy said...

You have to give your kids enough info to have street and PC cred without robbing them of their innocence too early or making them feel insecure. It isn't easy and it is a very fine line but at the end of the day education is their best protection( once they reach an age that makes holding their hands 24/7 impractical).