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Child Web-Safety: It's NOT just a scare tactic.

Our superintendent sent out a letter that there would be an evening presentation held at the middle school on teaching your children about online safety.

It's not the first time I've received such a notification.  Besides, I attended something similar two years ago.

I have four children (14, 12, 9 and 6) who will be entering into four different schools within the district, next year.  So, I'm pretty much used to getting scary letters from school.  Like the latest outbreaks of chicken pox and head lice and the typical "just so you know" type letters, reminding parents "how to know when your child is too sick to go to school" AND the repercussions of "excessive absents."

I know...DUH!...I spend a lot of time on the Internets.  I make it my business to surf the blogosphere and have spoken about the power of the mom blogging community (more than once) and I have become fearless.  In fact, I feel safer here (in my blog) than I do out on the street and thought...meh...I am so done with scare tactics!

Until, it happened to our family.

Last week, I received an email from a popular online gaming community for children - not naming names and you'll soon understand why - informing me that they had found personally identifiable information within a chat log attached to our account.

  • 13:11:09 what skewl u go to
  • 13:11:48 no! whats the name
  • 13:12:35 what state?
  • 13:31:30 ok whats the secret?
  • 13:33:48 have i what?
  • 13:33:52 luved some1
  • 13:33:53 ?
  • 13:34:21 lost my what?
  • 13:35:16 what were u asking me?
  • 13:35:24 u said lost ur.... and then i asked what?
  • 13:35:36 o!
  • 13:35:38 NO

They placed our account on a 72 hour hold and I thought that it would perhaps give me enough time to stop my hands from shaking off my wrists and frying my laptop, forever.

I read between the lines and quickly figured out the gist of the conversation and I can't tell you how sick it made me.

Okay, I ran to the bathroom and threw up.

Then, I sat down and tried to think this thing through:

  • All four of my kids play this game.
  • Only two of them spell well enough to know this type of Internet shorthand.
  • Hey...wait a minute...I didn't know you could chat with other players!?!?

I read and re-read the 0:24:27 of the chat and found the only redeeming quality I could and that was our IP ended the chat after the last entry...in UPPERCASE.

No, it's not funny, but that "NO" was the only thing that was keeping me from throwing up, again.

I mean, in real life, I make it my business to know where my children are (at ALL times) and insist that I (or their father) be introduced to who my kids play, or hang with.

Online, or texting on the phone, not so much.

Until something like this happens (or, we get the phone bill) and it's very nearly too late to do anything more than reprimand the child with grounding, or taking away their computer/texting privileges.

Only AFTER having scared the living daylights out of him, or her, by telling your baby stories of online predators posing as children, or stalkers who make it their business to know how to gain a child's trust, and anything else to get close enough to their victims, until they scream.

"STOP...Mommy, you're scaring me!"

But, your heart feels as if it's going to beat out of your chest and land on your desk, right next to your hands.

"You should be scared!"

And the only thing you could do is hug them until their eyes pop out.

"Mommy's scared, too!"

The game is supposed to be reinstated tomorrow and my husband and I have decided to allow my children access.  But, no chatting.  Ever.  And (believeyoume) my husband and I will be checking over each and every one of their "friends lists," too!

As a parent, I am NOT very proud of myself at the moment.  As a mom blogger, I urge all of my online friends to take a moment, get to know your children's online friends and take those privacy acts and safety policies a little more seriously.

Don't wait (like I did) until the Internets scares the shit of you, or your kids, too.

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