An Internet Story
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An Internet Story

An Internet Story

I trusted my children. Then this happened.

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No, this is not a rag-to-riches, college-dorm Mark Zuckerberg kind of story. And it isn’t a scary predator or bullying story either. There’s no pornography, no online gambling addiction. It’s not the kind of story that would make the news. It’s not a juicy scoop. But it is a story that affected my family and my children and my parenting. And I think it’s a cautionary tale for others.

I was one of those parents who trusted my children. Even though I had heard the horror stories about unsupervised internet use, I certainly wasn’t concerned about my kids. They were really good. They were really obedient. I made a half-hearted attempt at some parental controls but they blocked so many sites and so much information that I just gave up. Besides, smart kids can get around them, right?

The computer was in an open family area but I wasn’t always in the room. Like I said, I trusted my children. They were open and honest and followed the rules.

What happened was, thank God, not so bad – but it was a sobering wake-up call. I was sitting at the computer one evening when an instant message popped up for my daughter. I certainly didn’t read her “mail” but just glanced at the message. The user name was NYKicks** (expletive deleted). I was a little shocked. My daughter was attending a Jewish religious school. This was not the kind of language I expected. “Oh” she said, laughing. “That’s Marla’s screen name.”

“Really?” I asked. “Does her mother know?”

I was a little appalled but I told myself that every family has different standards and comforted myself that my daughter would never use such a vulgar moniker.

But something just didn’t sit right.

A few days later my daughter confessed that she had been misleading us. NYKicks* was actually the user name of a boy she had met online and with whom she was corresponding regularly. They were even making plans to meet! I was horrified. I never would have suspected her of sneaking around behind our backs or of engaging in inappropriate relationships. She was (and is) a bright and responsible student. Even her friends were opposed to her actions (I am grateful to the Jewish day schools for this reverse peer pressure!) but that didn’t stop her. It was too exciting. She was too caught up in it.

It wasn’t really my daughter’s failure; it was mine.

And the internet had made it too easy for her. I was certainly chastened. I was no longer smug. We ended our daughter’s internet access with only a day or two of screams and crying, sturm and drang. I think perhaps she wanted to get caught. But I don’t really know. I did learn that I couldn’t be so trusting or naïve again.

We now pay the price of parental controls and the limitations they impose – although we can still visit Aish.com. We monitor all correspondence much more closely and log off every time we leave the room. It’s certainly not the worth the potential risk to save a few extra seconds of logon time.

Related Article: X-Rated

I feel a little like a prison warden. But it’s a choice that parents have to make. We are entrusted with the souls of our children. They come to us precious and pure and it is our job to try to keep them that way. It wasn’t really my daughter’s failure; it was mine.

Thank God we learned our lesson in a relatively benign way – not only about the dangers of the internet but also about the dangers of being seduced by our adolescents cajoling us, “Don’t you trust me?” The correct answer, whether spoken aloud or not, should be no.

Published: May 12, 2012


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Visitor Comments: 50

(42) Aliza, May 24, 2012 8:22 PM

Not just a worry about boys

B"H you found out before your daughter met this boy - while most of the time, the person on the other end of the messages is a boy, this is also the way online predators go after their victims. They pretend to be a classmate, or at least the same age, empathize with their victims, and eventually convince the girl to meet with them in person. There are numerous documentaries, and articles about online predators, and how to be on the internet safely, and especially, how to protect your children. It's not just inappropriate relationships with the same-age opposite sex that the internet exposes our kids to. The internet can be a very safe place, when parents and children are educated. Like Anonymous 10:51 says, there is a lot of good to be found online. You just have to know how to filter it.

(41) stan, May 20, 2012 6:22 AM

Other answers you can consider

1) not yet 2) only with what you understand - and this you don't yet. 3) I do not trust myself with everything - I block many sites for myself. By the way if you don't block sites on your account too- you have not learned the lesson properly!

(40) Anonymous, May 18, 2012 12:45 PM

i would tell my kids. "of course i trust YOU, it's your yetzer hara i don't trust!!!

(39) Ze'ev G, May 18, 2012 2:27 AM

Nu, was it the Internet the cause of a frum girl chatting with boys? I think there are some unexplored issues here that you are not exploring and perhaps avoiding. Her Internet activity is only a symptom of something deeper. The internet is not the what should be blamed. I think you should deal with the source and root of the behavior rather than te vehicle by which your daughter uses to carry out the behavior. Taking away internet won't solve anything unless you face and deal with the issue of why she feels the need to go around chatting and meeting with boys...Kids always find away around whatever obstacle you come up with if they want to do what they want to do. Perhaps a heart-to-heart about Jewish values and modesty etc will be more effective than simply taking away the Internet.

(38) Anonymous, May 18, 2012 12:53 AM

Take it from someone who was on the other end

When I was in high school I was in a similar situation (but much WORSE). Baruch Hashem with the help of Him and my parents I turned my life around. But what my parents did that was so very helpful was this: My father and I began going on weekly walks to a coffee shop (or something of the sort). At first, the walks were just filled with small talk-- not much opening up but my dad showed interest in the most minute instances in my life. By the end, most of these walks were filled with me spilling my guts. Once, i tested my father by mentioning something about a friend's relaitionship with a boy. My father (instead of the yelling I feared would come) just listened calmly without judgement and talked me through all the many reasons it was not a good idea. My mother reacted the same. 7 years later and I still have this incredible relationship with my parents (not to mention I have not felt the need for a "boyfriend" since high school). Bottom line: talk to her and don't explode when your daughter confides in you or else she might not open up next time.

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