*For those of you with children and/or grandchildren, please take note.*
Keep your kids safe. A.S.K.
- ALWAYS- Keep your computer in a family room, where you can see what the kids are doing online. And read your kids "histories" on their chat logs. It's informative to know what they're talking about, and with whom. (Learn to read their short hand too. It's stupid, but it's necessary. POS= Parents Over Shoulder. PAW= Parents Are Watching. etc.)
- STAY ALERT- Keep your eyes and ears open- even if you don't like what you see and hear.
- KNOW EVERYTHING- who your childs friends at school and in the neighbourhood are. What their phone numbers are, know their parents (at least to call if you're worried about something).
Let your kids talk to you about things. Try not to jump to conclusions, or to judge too harshly. Sometimes the best lesson you can teach your kids is that they can talk to you about anything. Give them information about staying safe in today's world, and let them know they can turn to you for advice, and they will.
Remember, it isn't prying. It's PROTECTING your children to know EVERYTHING they do. I do it, my husband does it. My Mom and Dad did it. Your Mom and Dad did it too. They were just smart enough to not get caught. And that may be part of why you're here today.
Because parenting is hard, and it means fighting your kids everystep of the way (through teenage years), to keep them safe while they stretch their wings.
Parenting means protecting them, even when they tell you that they are old enough, smart enough and strong enough to protect themselves.
And if you're careful enough, and loving enough, and try your hardest not to judge their decisions, when they do catch you prying, they will know it's only because you love them. Remember though, that the dangers of our youth, were not the same as the dangers of theirs.
Now, whether your kids hide their online activities from you, or whether you're on top of everything under your roof, print off the next section, and let your kids read it. It might just be enough of a wake up for messaging online "friends" that they don't really know. I don't know if it's a true story, or one made up to help illustrate to children some of the potential dangers out there. But it's worth using every tool in the bag to keep your kids safe- isn't it?
Shannon could hear the footsteps behind her as she walked toward home.
The thought of being followed made her heart beat faster.
"You're being silly, she told herself, "no one is following you." To be safe, she began to walk faster, but the footsteps kept up with her pace. She was afraid to look back and she was glad she was almost home.
Shannon said a quick prayer, "God please get me home safe." She saw the porch light burning and she leaned against the door for a moment, relieved to be in the safety of her home. She glanced out the window to see if anyone was there. The sidewalk was empty.
After tossing her books on the sofa, she decided to grab a snack and get on-line . She logged on under her screen name ByAngel213. She checked her "Buddy List" and saw GoTo123 was on. She sent him an instant message:
Hi. I'm glad ur on! I thought someone was following me home today. It was really weird!
LOL U watch too much TV. Why would some1 be following u? Don't u live in a safe neighborhood?
Of course I do. LOL I guess it was my imagination cuz' I didn't see anybody when I looked out.
Unless u gave ur name out on-line. u haven't done that have u?
Of course not. I'm not stupid u know.
Did u have a softball game after school today?
Yes and we won!!
That's great! Who did u play?
We played the Hornets. LOL. Their uniforms are so gross! They look like bees. LOL
What is ur team called?
We r the Canton Cats. We have tiger paws on our uniforms. They are really cool.
Did u pitch?
No I play second base. I got to go. My homework has to be done before my parents get home. I don't want them mad at me. Bye!
Catch u l8r. Bye
Meanwhile......GoTo123 went to the member menu and began to search for her profile. When it came up, he highlighted it and printed it out. He took out a pen and began to write down what he knew about Angel so far.
Her name: Shannon
Birthday: Jan. 3, 1993
State where she lived: North Caroli na
Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating and going to the mall.
Besides this information, he knew she lived in Canton because she had just told him. He knew she stayed by herself until 6:30 p.m. every afternoon until her parents came home from work. He knew she played softball on Thursday afternoons on the school team, and the team was named the Canton Cats. Her favorite number 7 was printed on her jersey. He knew she was in the eighth grade at the Canton Junior High School. She had told him all this in the conversations they had on- line. He had enough information to find her now.
Shannon didn't tell her parents about the incident on the way home from the ballpark that day. She didn't want th em to make a scene and stop her from walking home from the softball games. Parents were always overreacting and hers were the worst. It made her wish she was not an only child. Maybe if she had brothers and sisters, her parents wouldn't be so overprotective.
By Thursday, Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps following her.
Her game was in full swing when suddenly she felt someone staring at her. It was then that the memory came back. She glanced up from her second base position to see a man watching her closely.
He was leaning against the fence behind first base and he smiled when she looked at him. He didn't look scary and she quickly dismissed the sudden fear she had felt.
After the game , he sat on a bleacher while she talked to the coach. She noticed his smile once again as she! walked past him. He nodded and she smiled back. He noticed her name on the back of her shirt. He knew he had found her.
Quietly, he walked a safe distance behind her. It was only a few blocks to Shannon's home, and once he saw where she lived, he quickly returned to the park to get his car.
Now he had to wait. He decided to get a bite to eat until the time came to go to Shannon's house. He drove to a fast food restaurant and sat there until time to make his move.
Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard voices in the living room.
"Shannon, come here," her father called. He sounded upset and she couldn't imagine why. She went into the room to see the man from the ballpark sitting on the sofa.
"Sit down," her father began, "this man has just told us a most interesting story about you."
Shannon sat back. How could he tell her parents anything? She had never seen him before today!
"Do you know who I am, Shannon?" the man asked.
"No," Shannon answered.
"I am a police officer and your online friend, GoTo123."
Shannon was stunned. "That's impossible! GoTo is a kid my age! He's 14. And he lives in Michigan!"
The man smiled. "I know I told you all that, but it wasn't true. You see, Shannon, there are people on-line who pretend to be kids; I was one of them. But while others do it to injure kids and hurt them, I belong to a group of parents who do it to protect kids from predators. I came here to find you to teach you how dangerous it is to talk to people on-line. You told me enough about yourself to make it easy for me to find you. You name, the school you went to, the name of your ball team and the position you played. The number and name on your jersey just made finding you a breeze."
Shannon was stunned. "You mean you don't live in Michigan?"
He laughed. "No, I live in Raleigh. It made you feel safe to think I was so far away, didn't it?"
"I had a friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn't as lucky. The guy found her and murdered her while she was home alone. Kids are taught not to tell anyone when they are alone, yet they do it all the time on-line.
The wrong people trick you into giving out information a little here and there on-line. Before you know it, you have told them enough for them to find you without even realizing you have done it. I hope you've learned a
lesson from this and won't do it again. Tell others about this so they will be safe too?"
What could have become a tragic situation was averted; but other children are not so lucky. Teach yours to know dangers, and to expect them from the internet. The internet is NOT a toy. It's a TOOL- one used by child predators. And ALL kids are at risk- even the smart ones.
Please send this to as many people as you can to teach them not to give any information about themselves. This world we live in today is too dangerous to even give out your age, let alone anything else. Besides child predators, there are identity theives, con artists, and most everyone on the net is at risk. Lower yours.