Kelsey Crouse:Teenagers feel invisible online

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Before the age of social networking parents warned their children about sexual predators in the world, cautioning them to never get in a car with a stranger, walk in a group if you have to walk at night, and always have someone with you even in the daylight. The danger was quite real because there was no buffer, no shield of protection that teenagers feel they have today.

I remember when the social networking site MySpace was popular. There was an age limit, much like on Facebook today, but it was and is easily avoided. My older sister created a page for me with an email that claimed I was 18  when I was really 16. After writing my bio and listing all of my likes, dislikes and even my future plans, I made my page private so only my friends could see my page or talk to me. However, my parents had two rules: I give them my username and password and I had to add them as my friend. Every night my dad would log into my and my sister’s MySpace accounts and look at our comments, our messages, and our friends list. If we had a new friend they would ask how we knew them, and if we met them outside of the website. If the answer was no, then that person was deleted and blocked.

Most parents who have children that fall victim to online predators say they did not know who their child is talking to online, because the teen refuses to add them as a friend. I find this strange. Parents have the right and responsibility to protect their child. If they will not add you, then delete the page or do an overall acceptance of the page nightly or weekly.

Parents used to be able to keep their child inside to be safe, but with the world of technology these threats are in homes. After abduction, murder, or extreme bullying on a social networking site, parents tend to band together and demand that sites like Facebook crack down on policies to protect their children. Facebook is as safe as the internet can be. This is not saying much. On a site that is focused on personal branding, where teenagers and young adults post pictures, videos, their phone numbers and home address, users are only as safe as they want to be. The internet is a black hole of information. Once something is posted it is next to impossible to remove.

When internet predators first came on the scene they would pose as children, hiding their identity, age and overall intentions. This is not the case anymore. Predators are open about their age and very forward in their interest, and teenagers are willing to chat, add and text them, according to a study from American Psychological Association. The study also showed that teens post sexually suggestive content online, and also sext strangers. It is not the social site’s responsibility to monitor your child’s post or the comments they receive, just like it is not a television station’s job to monitor what your child watches.

Walworth County officer Tony Larson has noticed a rise in bullying and solicitation through social networking growing over the past few years as more people turn to the internet as a sources of communication.

Sexual predators are not the only danger that teenagers face online. Erin Dale, a teacher at the Mobridge-Pollock Middle School, started an anti-bullying club for students. The club is a safe place for the students to talk about bullies. Dale says that cyber bullying is a huge and current problem amongst the students. To help the students stay safe online, Dale reviews worksheets and offers safety tips, such as if a person is posting negative comments, keep the page up and show a parent.

Teenagers feel invisible when they are online, not able to see the danger of what they post, who they friend, or the information that they share. Parents seem blinded to this obvious danger as well. Do not leave parenting to the programmers at Facebook headquarters. Be active in you teen’s cyber world. Not knowing who your teenager is talking to is just as dangerous as not knowing where they are or who they are physically with.

 

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