All The Kids Are Doing It ...

... is what I heard from my now-7 and almost-9 year old daughters earlier last month.

It's Moshi Monsters. Where you can adopt your own pet monster. What? You've never heard of it? What are you ... stuck back in 2011?

They BEGGED me to let them hop onto my antiquated, barely-able-to-work-anymore Dell laptop, and sign up.

And I let them. Because I'm totally cool with them crapping it up, knowing full well that when if they do, that I'm getting an iPad. Not that I needed an excuse ...

Anyway, over the past month the girls have been playing Moshi Monsters. They came up with their own names. Own passwords. They found all their neighborhood and school friends online. And, as the website clearly states on their home page, they even found and began chatting with "new friends", with my one request that they don't befriend anyone with the word "sexy" in their name.

Can you see where I'm going with this??

I never gave any thought to the potential dangers of these online games until Riley woke me up at 6 am Monday morning (still a holiday, remember?) and told me that she couldn't sleep because she's been very bothered and had something to tell me. She said that when she was at a neighbor's house on Saturday playing Moshi Monsters, she received correspondence from one of her online friends who asked her more personal information about herself. The neighbor saw this and told her to lie ... suggesting Riley tell this person saying that she is really only 7 years old and has a older brother. Which she did.

However, Riley, who carries the burden of the world on her young little shoulders, felt uber guilty about lying and told me she hasn't slept well in two days because of it. She wanted to know if she could get back onto the computer and tell this "online friend" that she lied to her and clear the air.

WOW. Not quite what I was expecting ...

Obviously my girls have absolutely NO awareness of how much information that they can / can't provide to people they don't now. Nor is it a topic that they've covered at school.

So I now ask ... How did you explain to your kids that fibbing and evading questions from people online is acceptable when you've punished them for doing it to you? How did you explain that sometimes people aren't who they really say they are, and sometimes there are horrible people in the world?

Moreover, how would YOU explain cyber security to a second and third grader?


karey m. said...

we subscribe to the theory of scaring the shizzles out of our girlies. they compare google searches of me and pat, who has zero footprint, and kind of understand. everything i put out there is available for use in very, very bad ways.

i usually end these talks with a "so don't get our family killed or one of you stolen. thanks."


Christy said...

Oh my god I have no idea Jill. I'd have to think about it. And honestly, I don't know any second or third graders very well. Our circle is much younger, so I don't think I really could even come up with an appropriate response or advice. But I tell you what, I AM interested in what other parents are going to say - I'll be coming back to these comments to see what they say.

Scary stuff.

mosey (kim) said...

Yikes. That is scary. To be completely honest, my 8yo is not allowed online at all, unless it's on her school's website where she accesses library and math games. She has our old itouch but we don't allow her to chat/message anyone or join any sites - wifi is disabled. I'm just way too paranoid about the predators out there.

As to your other concerns - I have no doubts that you handled it perfectly. Brutal honesty that there are people out there who DON'T have their best interests at heart, and that honesty with your family is number one.

But geez, Jill. Ouch.

Steph said...

Hey girl,
As you know, I have a 13 year old so I feel I can speak to this issue.
Although not involved with the monster game, mine was heavily involved in Club Penguin, which sounds very similar. I lectured her relentlessly about it before she started playing and even chose the one parental block they had on there which would limit what they could say to each other.

She did fine with that, so once she was of the required age according to the website's rules, we let her "proceed" to FB--- where more "escalated" lecturing ensued. She did fine with FB for about 8 months, we kept tabs on her, had her password etc.

Then one month I got complacent and didn't check up on her (because I thought she was doing so good... I didn't need to look) and low and behold, I caught her texting some random boy I'd never heard of. To make it worse (if that were possible) she had been texting him thru a free app on her ipod she'd figured out how to install and use because we'd given her a cell phone but limited the numbers she could text to to only immediate family members and friends we knew well and their parents... turns out this "boy" lived up in northern California and had just randomly popped up on FB one night in a chat session. She happened to have been sitting with a friend at the computer when it happened, and the friend had encouraged her to just keep chatting with this boy she didn't know... despite what she'd been told by us.

So the FB chatting went to texting and continued for weeks until I caught her doing it, then she fessed up. Dad and I panicked, figured it was really some 57 year old pervert that lured young children to his cabin in the woods and then chopped them up and disbursed their body parts etc etc- I started doing background research on said "boy" and it turns out he really was just a 14 year old boy that had over SEVEN HUNDRED friends on FB, 95% of which appeared to be young girls. All over the country. I tracked down his mommy and told her privately thru FB in no uncertain terms that her boy better cease and desist or she's going to have a problem on her hands etc. She actually answered me back and said she had NO idea, was completely shocked- said he struggled socially in school so he must be using FB to make up for his inadequacies etc.

In the meantime we promptly obliterated our daughter's FB account, took away the phone and ALL access to the internet and she is no longer allowed to hang out with the friend that encouraged her to go against her gut instinct and what her parents told her to do.

That was last fall. I told her it was going to be like Little House on the Prairie for quite a while and that she better just get used to it and consider herself lucky if I don't ask her to churn butter by hand for hours. Amazingly, she shaped up. She became a better kid. Less attitude, more willing to do chores etc... it's like a HUGE burden to keep up with all the technology and all the strangers coming at her was lifted off her shoulders. She reads a lot more now and we do let her watch PG-13 TV and have the "well behaved" kids over to visit, but that's it.

So my point in telling you our story is this- monitor the HELL out of what they are doing and then maybe have them take breaks from it completely every once in a while.

And may the force be with you my friend. It ain't easy being a parent these days.

Issa said...

Hmmm, this is a hard one for me. As someone who is online a lot, I have trouble telling my girls they can't do it too. Morgan wants a FB account which I flat out refused. But they are both on the monster thing and some pet penguin thing. I've explained to them basically what you said that some people online aren't who we think they are and they have to be really careful with what they say. I've actually told Morgan (Bailey doesn't use any chat feature yet) that when people ask any question that seems too personal, to just shut it all down. She's had to do that once.

I don't know friend. I guess we just keep talking about it. We keep talking and we pay attention.

Betsy said...

Wow, it is so scary when our kids are out *there*. I talked to my children when they started playing club penguin and posting their lego creations online. I told them that just b/c the account says that their 'friend' is a 10 y/o from Indiana does not mean it is not a 35 y/o. We talked about how they would never give a stranger on the telephone information or someone they meet at the park. I still go online and check up on them. Luckily, my 13 y/o is a super serious mini-adult. Once the message got through to him, he made sure his sibling understood.

I say sit her down and tell her that not everyone in the world is who they claim to be. As an example, I used one of those I am royalty so give me your bank account number and I will wire you 10 mil emails. They both saw the ridiculousness of those and I think it helped drive the point home.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy. What a reminder about being adamant about online safety for our kids!!

I don't know what to suggest since I have Moshi Monster, Cartoon Network, etc. players here in our house as well.

Hoo boy ... going to rethink this subject/topic for sure!

Kate said...

My kids aren't allowed to chat or "friend" anyone they don't know, period. Furthurmore, they aren't allowed to accept any friends or chats without permission from me, except for my teenager, although I have access to his FB and passwords to check in occasionally. That being said, I find that there is value in these online games and social networks because of the nature of our lifestyle. It's a way for my kids to connect with their cousins and friends in America. Constant vigilance is definitely the theme around here when it comes to the internet, though. As for giving out personal information, we constantly tell them just don't. If an online 'friend' wants to know more about them, they can just use the line, "My parents don't allow me to give out any personal information on the internet."

Blog Designed by: NW Designs