Posts Tagged ‘ online safety ’

‘Slenderman’ Stabbing a Worrying Tale for Parents

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Parents who are following the story of two 12-year-old girls who allegedly stabbed a friend multiple times in an attempt to please a fictitious  character named Slenderman are wrestling with questions about when kids learn to separate fantasy from reality, and how parents can keep track of their children’s online activities.  More from CNN.com:

Police said the girls told them they attacked their friend on Saturday to win favor with Slenderman, a make-believe online character the girls said they learned about on a site called Creepypasta Wiki, which is filled with horror stories.

Children of all ages are consumed with fantasy in books and movies such as “Harry Potter, “Twilight” and “The Vampire Diaries,” and don’t seem to have a problem making the distinction between what’s real and what’s not. But a story like this makes any parent wonder: Whoa, maybe my kid doesn’t get it?

Mary Ellen Cavanagh of Ahwatukee, Arizona, mom to an almost 14-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son, said she sees the line between fantasy and reality “thinning drastically among our youth.”

“I worry about it with my own daughter and her friends,” Cavanagh said on Facebook, adding that her daughter and her friends enjoy relatively innocent fantasy shows on television and online. Still, she worries that their “obsession” could shift to a “more violent genre at any moment.”

“I think today’s generation has been desensitized by the various forms of media, and we as parents (myself included) have done a piss-poor job giving them proper guidance,” Cavanagh said.

Professor Jacqueline Woolley of the University of Texas at Austin’s department of psychology studies children’s thinking and their ability to make distinctions between fantasy and reality.

She has found that by the age of 2½, children understand the categories of what’s real and what’s not, and over time, they use cues to fit things like unicorns, ghosts and Santa Claus into the real and not real boxes.

By age 12, the age of the girls in question in this case, Woolley said, she believes children should have as good an ability to differentiate fantasy from reality as adults.

“I don’t think that a 12-year-old is deficient or is qualitatively different from an adult in their ability to differentiate fantasy from reality, so I don’t think they’re lacking any basic ability to make that distinction at age 12,” she said.

Woolley did suggest, adding that she was purely speculating, that the fact that the frontal lobe of the brain is not fully developed until age 25 could be relevant in this case. The frontal lobe controls what’s called executive functions, which include impulse control and planning in the sense of anticipating all the different aspects of an outcome.

“It may be kind of an inability to hold the potential consequences and reality in mind at the same time as you’re holding potential consequences within your fantasy world in mind, whereas possibly an adult could sort of manage thinking about the consequences of both of those worlds at the same time,” she said.

Image: Girl looking at tablet screen, via Shutterstock

Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology

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Survey Reveals Parents’ Online Safety Attitudes

Monday, April 7th, 2014

More than three quarters of American parents discuss online safety with their children, according to a new national survey, which is a reassuring finding given that the same survey found that 95 percent of 12-15 year-olds own at least one smartphone, tablet, or other web-connected device.  More details of the survey, which was compiled by the commerce website eBuyer.com, were published on Mashable:

  • 83 percent of parents surveyed trust their children to use the Internet safely
  • 12-15 year-olds have an average of 78 Facebook friends they’ve never met in real life
  • Kids in the same age demographic send an average of 255 text messages each week
  • 64 percent of kids report having had a negative experience online, but only 22 percent of parents report that their kids have had a negative experience
  • 57 percent of kids have accidentally accessed inappropriate material online

Image: Kids playing with smartphones, via Shutterstock

Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep
Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep
Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep

These activities will keep your kiddos occupied without using any screen time.

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Digital Child Decoy Lures Sexual Predators

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

A computer-generated digital decoy of a girl its developers call “Sweetie” has successfully lured thousands of would-be predators into asking her to perform sex acts online.  Around 250 Americans were among the 1,000 who the children’s rights group Terre des Hommes were able to identify and pass along to Interpol for possible prosecution.  The group says thousands more, who were untraceable, made attempts to solicit sexual behaviors from “Sweetie.”  More from NBC News:

Overall, almost 20,000 people made approaches to the virtual girl — who was modeled on a 10-year-old — but the charity was unable to track them all down.

“The child predators doing this now feel that the law doesn’t apply to them,” said Hans Guyt, director of campaigns at Terre des Hommes Netherlands. “The Internet is free, but not lawless.”

He added that real children were often forced into remote commercial child sexual exploitation — or “webcam child sex tourism” — by adults or extreme poverty.

“Sometimes they have to testify against their own family, which is almost an impossible thing to do for a child,” Guyt added. “Once a child has become a victim of sexual abuse, rehabilitation can take many years. It is along, painful, and labor-intensive process for children to overcome the trauma.”

Using methods similar to Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” the researchers worked from a building in Amsterdam during the summer. “Sweetie” was placed in public Internet chat rooms and the charity’s investigators waited for her to be approached.

“Sweetie” was deluged with requests for sexual webcam performances and while the would-be predators interacted with the virtual girl, researchers gathered information about their identities.

Image: “Sweetie,” via http://www.terredeshommes.org

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Girl Lists Brother for Sale on Craigslist; Not Funny, Say Police

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

An Alabama girl got a stern lecture from local police after she placed an ad on Craigslist offering her 12-year-old brother for sale for $1,200. The prank was more than simply not funny, authorities told her, but dangerous. The Huffington Post has more:

Many kids joke about selling their little siblings. But one Alabama girl took the threat a bit too far.

“12-year-old joyfull [sic] little boy (real) needing a good home, and caring people to be around,” the now-deleted Craigslist ad read. The sale price? A cool $1,200.

Unfortunately, the intended joke fell flat on the authorities who gave the teen behind the ad a stern lecture, WAFF 48 News reported.

“[What] kids and parents need to realize is when you do something like this, you can lure the wrong kind of person, and you’re endangering the child by putting their image out there,” Mike Holt of the Florence Police Department told the TV station.

The ad looked legitimate and authorites feared it was the real deal.

The siblings, who were not named or charged with a crime, were identified by their grandmother, who brought them to the police station when she discovered the prank.

Image: Hands typing, via Shutterstock

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