A Disturbing IM
Today, I got an Instant Message from a nine-year-old girl looking for a pen pal. I first let her know that I have a child her age, and that IM'ing strangers looking for pen pals can be very, very dangerous. Not everyone out there has a child's best interest in mind. I tried to tell her that there are very reputable pen pal organizations out there, and her teacher may know of one she could find a pen pal through. She told me she tried those "alot" and wanted to know if my child could be her pen pal. At that point, I let her know that if my little girl wanted a pen pal, I would steer her towards one of those organizations...NOT a stranger on the Internet. Just as she had no idea whether or not I was a dangerous person...I also had no idea whether or not she was.
She didn't answer back.
God help that child (if, of course, she really IS a child). The next person she IM's might not be a concerned mom like me.
Where are the parents? How can a NINE year old be left on the Internet, unsupervised, to solicit people to talk to? I shudder to think what the consequences could be. I cannot imagine letting Wren wander the Internet without me looking over her shoulder...and with IM's disabled. I can't even imagine letting PHOENIX do it...and he's 12.
I did used to allow Phoenix to have IM's, until he showed me several coming from people looking for "sex talk." He was 11 at the time. We disabled the IM's after that.
Time was, we parents only had to worry about the guy in the car offering candy to our kids, or the weird dude in the park pretending to look for a lost dog. Now we have to watch the teachers, the priests, the cops...and now we've got the Internet, where our kids can be violated without ever leaving our homes.
And until we in this society begin punishing child predators and molestors with REAL prison time, they are going to continue. Hell, you can get caught with drugs and do less time than you would for sexually abusing a child. If you do any time at all---remember the Michael Jackson trial, not so long ago? Here's a man who ADMITS to improper behavior with kids, admits to sleeping in the bed with them, a man who convinced several jurors that he was, in fact, a child molestor---but still walked free.
If it sounds like I am bitter: hell yes, I am. I was sexually assaulted as a very young child. The guy who assaulted me was also found guilty of sexually assaulting FOUR other girls---the youngest was four years old.
He served 18 months.
The "system" promised me that I would be told when and if he had a parole hearing...I was never informed. Neither were any of the other victims. I didn't know until I saw him behind the counter at a Home Depot. I ran to the bathroom and threw up. I have never forgotten how that moment felt: the utter terror and horror. Or how I felt when I called the D.A.'s office and was told they "lacked the manpower" to call all the victims: sickened and frustrated. Victimized, all over again. A little of those feelings have never left me. They are still a part of me, all these years later.
Heaven forfend that little girl ever knows what that is like.
Parents, we MUST be vigilant. Use parental controls. Supervise your child's Internet time. Turn over suspicious emails and IM's to your ISP. And most importantly: talk to your children. Let them know how to protect themselves, and to never be afraid to tell you when someone has talked to them or touched them inappropriately. Make the time.
I can only hope that child's parents are reading this, but I know how slim the likelyhood of that is. Still, for her sake....I hope they wise up, and soon.