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The People We Know – and Don’t

11 January 2008 No Comment

imbeeKids say the darndest things. To us, that is. But you should hear how they talk to each other when there are no adults around. It’s downright scary! But we don’t mind a little ribaldry from our kids, bless them; it’s part of growing up. We know our kids’ friends, and their parents are pretty much like us – raising their kids as best as they can. Sure, our kids’ friends may have occasional lapses in judgment, dragging our children into trouble with them, but it’s usually nothing too serious. Of course we worry, but in the end we know we can trust our kids and their friends to act responsibly. The problem comes in when kids start hanging out with less than savory chums, perhaps kids they met at a party or at the mall. These new peers are an unknown quantity. Are they good kids – or is there something to worry about? We want to be able to trust our kids, to believe they wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize themselves – but short of spying on them or getting them to spill the details on their new relationship, there’s little we can do to restore our peace of mind. And if such is true in real life, where we can surreptitiously observe our kids’ and their friends and see if anyone is pulling out switchblades or engaging in other less than wholesome pastimes, it’s all the more so in the world of social online community and chat – the “Facebook phenomenon” – that kids of all ages seem unable to resist. I don’t think I have to elaborate on the dangers kids can be exposed to in chat rooms and online social sites; we’ve all heard stories. You’ve got to figure, though, that a 16 or 17 year old who is well-adjusted in life is not going to get into too much trouble online. The problem is more with the younger kids, some as young as 9 or 10, who can be profoundly affected – and hurt – by a bad online experience. You could ban your kids from online chatting and socializing – but it’s hard to forbid them what “everybody else” is doing. Instead of an almost-anything goes Facebook account, though, you can let the kids have a safe online experience, while allowing you to retain peace of mind, if you ferry their online socializing instincts to a site like Imbee (http://www.imbee.com). Imbee is a closed community aimed at “tweens” (10-14 year olds) , where only kids who are in your child’s network can chat (at that age, that’s enough). In order to get an account, a child has to go through an adult (who has to supply information like a credit card number to get approved), and the site offers parents varying degrees of control, such as checking messages, blogs, etc. Imbee’s safe – some would say a little too safe – but you can’t be too safe these days.

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