My daughter gave out her cell phone number to a stranger she met in a chat room. And talked to “her.”
December 26, 2010 9:34 PM Subscribe
How can I logically – and without turning into a shrill, emotive, drama queen or a growling mother bear – educate my daughter to the danger she put herself in by giving out her cell phone number to someone she met in a kid's online chat room – and help protect her going forward?
(Detail and more questions below!)
Useful feedback is welcome with open heart and ears; mocking my parenting decisions just means you want Karma to kick your ass too.
posted by lostinsupermarket to human relations (42 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My kids play lots of online games and one of them, we’ll call her Pandora, loves to play on ourworld.com. She asked me today to buy her more ‘gems’ as part of her monthly allowance. (This is a recurring purchase for her that I manually add, not allow them to autobill.) My mom-dar goes off because of the slightly-off behavior she’s exhibiting. She denies, of course, but mom-dar is at Defcon 1 and I pursue. An hour later, I find out that she had been befriended by a girl calling herself “Giovanna” and they talked on Christmas evening. (Our house was inundated with family and frivolity so she snuck off undetected to her room.) That conversation was spent talking about getting more gems and “Giovanna”’s upcoming trip to their lake house. (“Giovanna”’s number is a cell phone in New Hampshire.) And then Pandora asked me for her monthly stipend for more gems. After extracting this information, I had a freak out of epic proportions, restricted the internet from the kids entirely, and then started reviewing her phone and text messages (she talked to “Giovanna” at length Christmas evening and I caught this early Sunday morning). Pandora answered several leading questions by “Giovanna” that identify where she is – in terms of city and state (it starts with “what time is it where you are?”) – and what games she likes. Reading through it makes my hair stand on end. At one point in all this, I had this weird feeling that “Giovanna” was hired by ourworld.com to enlist more kids to buy more gems. But the texts don’t support that hypothesis.
So several questions come to mind: (1) how do I scare the bejesus out of Pandora to make this don’t-talk-to-freakin’-strangers-convo stick? She is still of an impressionable age yet has started with that air of Teflon invincibility that nothing ‘bad’ or ‘scary’ will ever happen to her. I want to instill a healthy respect for not talking to someone she doesn’t know – and, honestly: I love my child – but she is such a nice kid that she is 100% likely to give out seemingly innocuous information that would give away information she might want to implicitly conceal. (2) My husband and I are going to call “Giovanna” tomorrow. Should I have run a trace on the number in advance? Do I record the conversation? (3) Do I contact ourworld to ask for the chat logs – if they have them? (4) Do I contact law enforcement? (I'm assuming that I should contact them only if there's something in the logs or the chats.)
We’ve never installed key loggers (am working on that now – recommendations are welcome) but that’s primarily because the computer is in the ‘heart’ of the house. You can’t get into much mischief without a sibling or a parent seeing (and in the case of the sibling, seeing what you’re up to and then telling on you… somewhat gleefully). Plus their access is limited by time of day, I'm home when they're home, and they have time of day restrictions on their phone that work very, very reliably. Lastly, our beta child, the oldest, has navigated these waters without resorting to a nunnery or regressing to caves and landlines. Where we’ve had issues with inappropriate contact/behavior/sites, it’s discussed and doesn’t happen again. Or we discuss it until it’s resolved. With Pandora, she apparently doesn’t feel these rules and discussions apply to her.