Children and the Internet

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ImageI like gaming. All types of gaming: XBox 360, Wii, Nintendo 64, old PC games, online games, etc. I occasionally mess around on a game called Disney City Girl, where you send a character that you get to dress to work, design her apartment, etc, and friend random people within the game to make more points and game money. Tonight, I was needing a reprieve from real life, so I hopped on the game for a few minutes. To the left of the game’s interface, there’s a live chat bar, where you can ask your neighbors for items and talk about random things. I usually join in on the conversation, though nobody really knows anybody, with related comments like, “I’m pretty sure I needed someone to wheelbarrow me to the car tonight from the gym, but since no one was there to do that, I just crawled.” The age differences in this game are huge, ranging from 10 to I don’t even know what. I’m 23, and I know of a couple girls that are my friends in real life that enjoy the game now and then as well.

As I was about to click the “x” to get out of the game and go to sleep, I saw two people having a conversation. Given their speech patterns and maturity levels, I estimated them to be about thirteen. I had been reading through their conversations for a while, for no reason other than complete boredom while my character completed a task, but this particular part of their conversation caught my eye.

One player asked the other if they had Skype. This startled me, so I scrolled down through the conversation to get some reference. They had been talking about how they were friends now because they’d been chatting for a while, and exchanging ages. Sure enough, one was 12 and one was 14. One of them said to the other, “What’s ur real nm?” (Ignoring the grammar,) I instantly posted and said, “Be careful about handing out your real name or Skype names to people on the internet.” My warning was met with none other than a complete introduction: “my name is sara o—– im — yrs old i have one —— and im schooled my mother is —— and my father is ————–.” I took out information to show you exactly how much she gave. Her name is Sara (I still can’t believe she listed her last name). She has now told everyone who has access to the internet exactly what city she lives in (that came in a later comment — I’m still watching them converse, but it looks like they’re going elsewhere to chat), what her mother and father do, how many siblings she has and what gender, and her age. When the other player asked again for her Skype, she said she had it, but her parents don’t let her use it yet because she’s still only 12.

Gee.

This MIGHT be why.

Perhaps the possibility of this person that you think is a 13 year old girl who just wants to chat because she’s lonely actually being a 43 year old child molester who lives in a portable white van and targets uneducated or careless girls like you is why your parents are trying to keep you off social networks and media. Personally, I don’t think you should be allowing any child below perhaps 14 online, and only once a solid understanding of what kinds of information is acceptable to release is established. We’re taught that this is unreasonable by the media and advertisements, like this one, which is centered around a baby that has an iPad:

And according to Marketing Vox in their article: 89% of Kids Are Computer-Savvy, “An overwhelming majority (89%) of all kids age 6-11 in the US spend at least some time doing online activities…” …Wow.

Another thing I noticed is that probably 60% of the children that I teach (granted, I work in a ritzy city) own their own iPads, iPhones, and iTouches. These kids are between the ages of 6 and 13. What do you think about all this?

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