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Fort Bend County, At Large
By Cheryl Skinner

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.


 
My Space is revealing

The tragic slaying of a popular Clements High School teen has brought the focus of attention on one of the most “in” places for young people to meet — My Space.com — an Internet site that can be likened to the soda shops of the 50’s, more or less.

While most of the postings by teenagers across the nation consist of typical teenage chatter, lingo and happy-go-lucky photos, others use the sites to boast, to show how “cool” or “hot” they think they are and to exhibit bravado and rebelliousness at it’s finest. Then there are those who express the dark side of their personality that may be hidden to the world on a daily basis, but scream for attention, on the Web site.

Our son, his friends and now our grandchildren use My Space and find it informative and a place to share information, ideas and stay in touch.

Last week it became a place of sharing solace over the senseless loss of Ashton Glover. It also became a place for her friends, who logged comments on the Web sites of the two men accused in her murder, to vent their anger, confusion and anger.

I have to admit that as a mother, I visited My Space before to make sure that those teenage entries did not expose my son or his friends to predators who sometimes stalk such Web sites in hopes of finding a vulnerable young person to take advantage of. Luckily, all I found was fun information. They had passed the muster.

When parents argue that looking a child’s Web page on sites such as My Space is an invasion of privacy, I say bull. If the young person puts stuff on the World Wide Web for strangers to peruse, it is hardly like sneaking out a diary from under the mattress to delve into deep and private thoughts.

For the most part the Web site allows teens to vent, share and keep in touch with family members and friends. As the kids age it allows them to stay in contact with high school friends who have gone away to college and later with college friends who are now in the workforce. But it is obvious that some of these young people are troubled by serious family issues, rejection and anti-social attitudes. By discovering those potential problems, a parent can and should intervene to find out what is behind the dark and sometimes alarming entries and provide the help and guidance that is needed to address and resolve these issues.

We protect our children when they are toddlers intent on sticking a hairpin in an electrical socket; we teach them to look both ways before crossing the street; we set curfews; meet their friends; set limits on the attire they wear (even if “everyone” else in the whole world is allowed to wear that) and generally try and make sure they reach adulthood as productive members of society with all of their parts still intact.

Things have changed drastically in society over the years. We don’t live in small towns where everyone knows everyone and snitch on the kids when they cross the “acceptable” lines.

There are sexual predators thousands of miles from the safety of your home that could zero in on a naÔve youngster. There are disturbed people, young and old, that use these avenues to profess all kinds of beliefs, threats and clues to future problems.

If you haven’t already, be sure to talk to your youngsters about these issues. In their youth and innocence many pre-teens and teens wear “rose colored glasses” and assume that those stories are for others and they are safe and invincible. With open concern and discussion, most likely they will invite you to look at their Web site. If not, tell them you are interested, concerned and plan to take a look.

Sadly, this week hundreds of local teens are coping with the tragedy of losing a friend and trying to understand why. For them the feeling of being invincible is gone forever.

 

Contact skinnerc1@ev1.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006