Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bad Girls

So teenage girls are going on websites and showing off and meeting people for sex. Yes it has been going on since the internet has been around, and it shouldn’t be a surprise. It isn’t to me. I used to moderate an adult website chatroom, that chatroom would have, from time to time, teenagers under 18 accessing it. Sometimes adults would roleplay being younger, which is fine, as long as it is clear. Sometimes, there were boys and girls from puberty up gaining access. The messageboard associated with the website purged anyone who gave a birthday on registration that meant they were under 18 – so they just lied. You couldn’t tell until you caught them, and when there are thousands of people registering online and lying, you can’t do much about it other than be as vigilant as you can be. Search yahoo profiles and you're find them there too, pretending to be 18 or over.
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In other words – teenagers are interested in sex online, they look at it, chat about it and meet others for it. Most of those they meet are in their peer group, but no doubt some meet those much older than them. The question that needs asking is not how to block them from doing it, because if you can't control your net access then it is almost futile - but to ask why they do it in the first place.
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Check out this report:

The parents arrived home one night to find a boy in their house with their daughter.
"Then we started finding condoms lying around. We questioned her a bit further and it came out," the father said. He forced his daughter to show him the website, and he was horrified at what he found. She was acting like "something off Manchester Street". "The whole school is in on it, hooking up left, right and centre. They post messages like 'Fancy hooking up?' and they come around to the house when Mum and Dad are out to make whoopy," he said.

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Let’s get some reality here. So a girl has met a boy off a website (not a man) and they had sex, and his daughter can dress sexy. So this didn’t happen before the internet? Seriously, there is a whole flavour of Victorian prudishness here. It is one thing to protect your kids from predatory behaviour and rightfully so, another to be concerned that teenagers – horror of horrors- are attracted to each other.
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The internet is not dangerous. There is nothing sinister in itself about a communication network that allows people to access information, images and media from around the world about any topic. The worst the internet can do to you, if you do nothing, is to offend you or something can steal your image and defame and humiliate you. Assuming nobody takes advantage of you, the choice then is how you interact with it. With that come some simple rules that parents can apply to teenagers, like not giving out home addresses or phone numbers. Meeting people online accompanied in a public place. People meet others online daily, thousands, and thousands are no more at risk than meeting people in a bar, at a café, or at a mall. It is no MORE dangerous than anything else. The danger comes from meeting people, and that danger is universal, and part of life no less.
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Yes there are teenage chatrooms which some adults go to for preying on teenagers. Reputable ones monitor them, which is why some men get arrested for trying to meet underage girls online. You should find those that are monitored and encourage their use. The reputable ones monitor because it is in their interests to do so. However, there is little you can do if you darling daughter (few seem concerned about sons, but boys do it too) shows off her body online with a digital camera. If she owns one and posts images of herself, she is taking a risk – and should be warned. Often sites prohibit anyone under 18 posting adult images, but then there are plenty who lie about their age.
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The report also said:
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His daughter "was actually making the first moves".
"They are all talking about sex, who they had sex with or were going to have sex with," he said.
Police, schools and the Government needed to take steps to crack down on the sites before something "blew up".
"I don't think police have picked up on it, but it's obvious to me the websites are dangerous," the father said.
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Sorry “dad” to burst your bubble. Your image of your daughter as this white virginal pure possession of yours that doesn’t think about sex is as archaic as your attitude. Girls make the first moves nowadays as well. The websites are not dangerous – do you seriously think your young woman (not little girl anymore) is going to stop meeting others she may have sex with because the websites aren’t there? She seeks attention and approval, and your attempt to present her as a child corrupted by the big bad world is nonsense. You want to protect her - yes - but instead you've made the world forbidden fruit, which is only the more delicious because she wants to taste it.
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You see this is the great unspoken truth about the internet scaremongering. Some teenagers actively search out pornography and adult contact. In fact, most teenagers have probably seen internet pornography, much like earlier generations saw playboy etc. If your daughter or son is posting explicit or seductive pictures of her or his self it is because they are seeking attention – but it may be the least of your worries. Do you know what they are doing late on Friday night? Do you know about the parties they go to? Do you remember what you did at that age? Do you talk to your kids in an open, non-judgmental way about sexuality? Do you know what your daughter wears? Why is this a bigger concern than swarms of 13 and 14yos hanging around major inner city streets at midnight on Fridays? Why is sitting at home online a bigger risk than that?
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Answer those questions.
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There is another side as well. The internet allows teenagers who feel different to connect with others. Imagine being gay, lesbian or bisexual and wanting to find others in your town who are – not so easy, but many of the outraged probably think that it would be an illness to feel that way. Imagine also being shy or feeling uncomfortable with the opposite sex, the net provides a fairly secure way of communicating without confronting them head on. So it can be a good thing, a very good thing if otherwise suicidal lonely perhaps gay teenagers don’t feel alone. And sex? Well if they don’t get pregnant, don’t catch diseases and aren’t forced or made to feel guilty for it, then feel relieved. However, think more than that - your teens are responding to some basic instincts, that you respond to as well, and almost certainly did at that age. Find out the facts before exploding, and you might find you get honesty and respect, and you might also find out that things aren't half as bad as you think.
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Oh and the blogosphere has plenty of people whose websites might corrupt your teens. If you are not at work try:
http://naughtyopath.blogspot.com/

2 comments:

James said...

Good post and well said.Needs to be read far and wide...

libertyscott said...

Thanks. The Emperor has no clothes on this one - teenagers post naked images of themselves routinely online, usually for other teenagers. It may be stupid, but it's not half as stupid as what they do in real life with each other, whether driving, drinking, taking drugs or having mindless sex.