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South Boston Online
  Wednesday, March 4, 2015
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Parents - Wake Up and Log On
By Brianne R. Fitzgerald RN/MPH

     Being a parent is tougher than Marine basic training.  Being a teenager may be just as difficult. 

     The news is filled with bad stories about kids.  K-pins, O.C’s, suicide, car crashes, underage drinking, friends with benefits, girls and boys who “hook-up” with older men who befriend them and lead them down the slippery slope toward sex for money, clothes or a safe haven are commonplace.  It takes constant diligence, and face to face communication with our kids, our parents and our peers to keep up to date, to keep aware and to keep safe.

     Computers make our life so much easier in many ways, but they also provide a dark place for people to be anonymous and the excessive use of computers can isolate people from the connectedness that we as humans need in order to be reasonably healthy.  One of the newer sites that are generating lots of attention is www.myspace.com.  It would behoove parents to check it out.  You might be surprised at what you see.  Hopefully, you will not find out anything to shocking about your own child, but you will most certainly see what your child may be exposed to on a daily basis.  If you do see your child on the site in ways that disturb you, it is a starting point for the best medicine of all; communication.

     Type in www.myspace.com.  Better yet, ask your kids to help you sign in.  Their response will be more information for you to consider as you steer them toward adulthood.  Go to the sign up side and follow the directions.  Notice the check off boxes at the bottom under date of birth.  There is no reason that anyone would have to give truthful information (which may be the point of the site and its activities), except an email that you wish to receive feedback from.  Some teens even get a new email address just for this site, the purpose being that they are trying to hide others from finding out what they post (say and show) on the site.  Next the registration process will ask you to enter the numbers/letters that you see in the psychedelic rectangular bar.  After that you are registered and you are free to navigate the site.  Go to “home” and then to “search” in the toolbar.  At “friend finder” enter the email you want to look at or at “classmate’s finder” enter the school you are interested in learning about.

     On this site I saw underage drinking, I saw girls in various stages of undress and sexually provocative poses, and I saw boys and girls posting messages that included pretty misogynistic and foul language.  I saw kitchens of friends that I had been in, in the background of photos of children whom I know.   These pictures included lots of empty beer cans.  Once you find someone you know go to “their friends” and see a few more kids that you may recognize and then you may begin to see the width and breadth of this site.

     The site several issues came up that I ask you to consider, both parents and teens alike.  What might the long term ramification of posting your pictures and conversations on this site mean?  After all www.  stand for World Wide Web.  There are so many people who can see, download and save your information.  What might jealous, angry or hurt friends do with your postings?  Do the police surf the web looking for clues to cases they are trying to solve?  Everyone is pretty much aware of perverts who have successfully connected with children through the web.  What if something bad happens at your house?  Will the information and pictures posted on the site be used in a prosecution case?  Is this the way we want our children to learn about sexuality?  The language on the site is disturbing at least and filled with downright self loathing at other times.  Has underage drinking become so accepted, “because at least it is not O.C’s”,   that we ignore it or think that it is normal?   Does being drunk make you more appealing?

     Find out what is going on with your kids and at your kids’ school.  Tell your kids that you are going to go on the site.  What will happen if they know that you know what they and their friends are doing?  They may think before they do something that might impact their life for a long time.  Two scantily clad girls locked in a provocative embrace surrounded by beer cans might cause a problem in the college application process, and that is a benign outcome compared to the 40 year old man from Cleveland who becomes enamored by your daughter or son and travels to Boston and their school just to get a look at them.

     Keep all of your home computers in a common area.  Limit your use and the children’s use of computers.  More talk, less TV, less computer time, less cell phone time, family dinner once a week at least.  These times are hard for all of us; parents and children alike.  Learn as much as you can from your children in an open and truthful and respectful manner.   Bfitz38@msn.com

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