Making New Friends on the Internet

The Internet is a wonderful thing. It allows us to find information on just about any subject matter that we cant imagine. Need to know a little more about how to install a tile floor in the bathroom? Do a search. Need information on when the next big political rally is? Do a search. If you can think of a special interest, there is a website for it.

Believe it or not, people are even finding friends on the Internet. Some even look to find mates and life partners through Internet dating services and social networking sites. The popularity of these social sites has exploded over the last several years, with literally thousands of people signing up every single day. One of the most popular sites, MySpace, allows users to build a small personal website and start creating a network of ‘friends’.

Sounds innocent enough, right? You would be wrong if you thought it was all harmless fun. While sites like this were originally created and conceived of as simply a way for friends to keep in touch, online predators extol their virtues as a plentiful source of willing victims.

Many teens these days are turning to MySpace and sites like it to make connections with other kids their age. They spend more and more time on the Internet sending messages back and forth to their new friends. If your son or daughter is heavily into these social sites, you may want to start paying more attention to what they do and who they are in contact with.

The danger is no so much that they will be talking with friends, but that someone who has no good intentions will lure them into a friendly relationship with false information. On the Internet, you can be whoever you want to be. A middle aged man in Oklahoma can simply fill out his information so that he is now a 14 year old girl in New York. A predator uses this anonymity to entice his victims into a trusting relationship, and most try to arrange a meeting at some point.

Law enforcement departments across the nation have set up special task forces to deal with this ever present threat, and some officers even pose as young people looking for friends on the Internet to try to draw out the predators and catch them. This doesn’t stop bad things from happening every now and then, so you should always be aware of what your kids are doing on the Internet.

It is not always a bad thing for kids to forge friendships on the Internet, but they don’t always have the good judgment to know when a person they are in touch with is suspect. Teach them the warning signs, and be absolutely insistent that they never meet someone they met on the Internet unless you know about it, and are there. This is not an out of this world over protective request, even though they might think so. Kids these days are convince that they are more mature than kids of the past, but that is simply not true. While it may be true that there is more for kids to deal with now (with the increasing popularity of the Internet, television, and other mass communication), they are still biologically kids, and they don’t’ have the same kind of discernment skill that you as an adult have.

Teach your kids to know the difference, and let them know that you care for their safety. Keeping kids safe on the Internet is hard, but not impossible. You can do it. Don’t give up and don’t give in. Your kids will thank you in the end.

Have a great day!