Sunday, April 15, 2007

Digital Foot, Cyber Mouth

I am always saying the wrong thing. You know those people who "overshare"? Yep, that's me. The woman at work who starts an email talking about her ideas for an upcoming project and then ends the email in tears over the budgie that broke its neck when she was a kid? Mm-hmm. Me. The 'would she shut UP already?' lady.

It's a problem I've had since I discovered my voice, which luckily for my grade school teachers, was not until high school. I used to be a shy, frightened of my own shadow, wallflower book-addict who listened to her parents italian folk music and kept a low profile. Then one day, in grade nine, they smacked me into a sexy little kilt, put on the C & C Music Factory, shipped me off to a new school and I was the SHIZZLE! You shoulda seen me. I was so frigging full of myself it's amazing I could walk to my classes without needing to be carried upon a litter. And I was smart too, averaging in the high-90s.

Where was I going with this?

Right. Big mouth. Honesty is not always the best policy Franny! But then again... honesty has its value.

I recently made the aquaintance of a young person online, aged 11, who writes as do I. I have given her feedback on her stories on the open forums, etc. Well, she asked me for some extra help with grammar/style because she likes my stuff, and I gave her my email address, asking her to get her parents permission before she contacted me and to CC her parents on our emails.

When she did not, I sent her a little reminder, saying that I apologize for being overprotective, but I was a mom and I'd want to know who my kid was emailing online, and that it would be a good idea to CC her mom & dad so that they know someone is reading/editing their daughter's creative writing (which has the potential to be sensitive in its own right), so that they can decide if it's okay or not.

To which I got a snarky little reply:

I am ELEVEN YEARS OLD. I think I am old enough to decide who I can email!!

As you can imagine, I was most charmed. Not only does this girl not tell her parents what she's up to online, but I could be a 55-yr-old male pervert for pete's sake! I tried to be cool, I honestly did. I tried to be hip with the young people, to be a role model and a mentor, but at some point you just want to send an email that says, in big bold red letters:


(No, I didn't actually say that.) But I seriously want to, because this is the type of attitude that makes kids targets. Am I just insane here? Should an 11-yr-old girl be emailing a stranger online without her parents knowing about it? And should she be giving lip to someone who is trying to help her (with her writing and with her safety) over the internet?

So, before I open my cyber mouth and insert my digital foot, what's the right thing to say now?


At 4:59 PM , Blogger Amuse said...

Man, scary attitude. Maybe "how do you know I'm not a 55-year old male pervert?" Clearly she is asking for it unless someone gets through her substantial ego, creative as it may be, and wakes her up a bit. No-one likes a rude awakening to facts . . until they witness what would have happened if no-one had bothered. But with that kind of attitude, and without being face-to-face, how DO you wake someone up? Hopefully she will want to learn the easy way and change her attitude before she gets herself in trouble. Your concience should be clear, in my opinion! there's only so much you can do when other people's parents are cuckoo.

At 5:13 PM , Blogger thisisme said...

Invincibility - a terrible thing to suffer from. My gut says email her back and say that you won't be in communication again unless her parents know about it. I wonder if there is stuff in her writing she doesn't want her parents reading, and that is why she is loathe to cc them. If that is the case, maybe suggest that she send you a general email without her writing ccing her parents, so that they are aware.

Nice to see you posting again too :)

At 10:43 PM , Blogger Motherkitty said...

Hellllllloooooo, how do YOU know that she's an 11 y/o girl and not some undercover cop trying to trap you into something? Well, color me paranoid. Don't you ever watch Dateline? They're always setting up scams to catch internet predators.

She may well be 11 y/o, but at this juncture I would be RUNNING the other way, with or without her parents' knowledge of what she's doing online.

Really bad vibes on this one, kiddoo.

At 5:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was 11 and starting to write, I didn't want my parents to read what I was writing either. I didn't have nearly the attitude this little chicky has (motherkitty is right, IF she's an 11 year old) but I probably would have balked about letting my parents in on my little secret writer life.

However, Motherkitty is right. Walk away on this one. Parental involvement or not, it's not worth the hassle. She's got teachers in her life that might be able to help her. Either way, if she loves and sticks with writing, she'll find all the right tools on her own and through other, in person, mentors.

At 8:28 AM , Blogger Pope's Apprentice said...

I agree with Motherkitty. You should not have anything to do with this kid. Tell her that you've reconsidered, and that it is now your opinion that she should ask her teachers at school for help. Be nice and polite about it, but be firm.

Also, you might want to consider turning her email address over to perverted justice ( and tell them that this girl is at risk of having contact with a predator. I'd bet they could find out who the girl's parents are, and then warn them. They're the ones who work with law enforcement on Dateline.NBC... You don't *have* to take it that far, but it's something to consider. What if (one day) this kid DOES email the wrong person?

At 11:11 AM , Anonymous Linda B said...

Considering I'm not a parent, I had to think about this for a while before responding.

I have a 14 y/o niece who regularly uses my computer to chat with her friends. Initally, I didn't realize her chats were being logged. When I found them I read them and promptly reported back to her mother. I felt terrible for invading her privacy but relieved to know that she was communicating only with people that the family knows. My sister was totally ok with my monitoring of her internet activites.

I see it as the responsibility of the parents of your 11 y/o to be aware of her communication. I believe you've absolutely done the right thing by suggesting she inform her parents. I'm sure she thinks your request is absurd but that's exactly what internet predators are looking for.

So now what? Do you terminate your relationship with her to protect yourself or do you carry on with your mentorship? The way I see it, you are both benefitting from the current relationship and if you cut her loose she will simply find someone else. At least you know she is safe with you. I'd still track your correspondence just in case any questions come up.

Please let us know what you decide.

At 11:39 PM , Blogger thunderbird said...

Did you know that a 10 y/o, thanks to t.v. and movies and video games, have seen as many people dying than a W.W. II vet.?
Psychologists are shocked.
So if an 11 y/o asks for your support, do so. Because maybe after seeing so many horrible things, she can tell the difference between good and ugly. One of the most important thing to remember in any relationship, is not to be judgemental of the other.Let your heart speak. You never can go wrong with that. If you are concerned about her parent's lack of presence in her activities, do not judge them. After all, she didn't ask you do to so. Maybe she is more aware of her current situation then you think and she is using that issue to seek support to cope for the lack of support at home. Remember, Love can heal anything...
In Peace and Friendship.


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