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MySpace Stranger Dangers

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How moms can make sure their teens stay safe.

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12-year-old Brooke Bennett arranged to meet someone she met on MySpace Wednesday, and hasn't been seen since. Articles of Brooke's clothing were found on the side of a road, and divers are searching a lake for the missing girl.

Brooke's father said the MySpace account was opened under his supervision. "We told her when we set it up there are things you're not gonna' do," he told Fox News. "We had a little respect problem after a month or so, so we shut it off. There was an issue, and we decided it was not appropriate for her to have it. We changed the password so she couldn't use it," he said. But officials say Brooke later set up an account from another computer without her parents' knowledge.


It's a mom's worst nightmare. Just the thought of our innocent kids out there alone, meeting guys who are pedophiles, rapists, murderers, or God knows what is enough to keep us up at night. But, even though we tell our teens and tweens not to meet strangers, sometimes it feels like the message is just not getting through.

Momlogic called psychologist Dr. Lisa Boesky, author of When to Worry: How to Tell if Your Teen Needs Help--and What to Do About It, for her advice on warning teens against meeting strangers online:

• Don't tell her not to meet strangers -- she'll only tune you out.
"Telling your teen to avoid strangers on the Internet doesn't work," she says. "The Internet creates a false sense of intimacy. If your daughter has been talking to someone online, she probably feels like she knows him. He's not going to be one of those people who would hurt her. No way. The only problem is that sometimes, many times, she's wrong."

• Instead, talk to her about how fake the Internet can be.
"You need to talk to your teen about the false sense of intimacy that develops online and how fake it can be, as well as the dangers that can happen," Dr. Lisa advises.

• Figure our WHY she's meeting strangers on MySpace.
Parents need to look at why their teen girls are vulnerable to this, says Dr. Lisa. "What is it that's missing in her life?" she asks. "What is it she's seeking from this person from MySpace? Once you figure that out, how can you help her fill that void in a healthier, safer way? Most of today's teen girls are desperate for a connection. Once they meet the first person who will give that to them, their judgment often goes out the window. Part of it is that they're not getting that connection at home or from friends. It's a normal need, but they're going about it in a dangerous way."

• Tell her about people who've been raped or murdered as a result of MySpace.
"You may want to use real-life examples of girls who been murdered, raped, or who've disappeared after meeting someone on MySpace, Facebook, or Craigslist. (Google 'Donna Jou' for starters--she's a 19-year-old who went on a date with a guy she met on Craigslist last year and hasn't been seen since.) 

Don't tell her about these cases in a lecturing way, or a holier-than-thou way," says Dr. Lisa. "You want to come from an 'I'm concerned about this because...' angle. Parents should stay away from phrases like 'you should' or 'you shouldn't.' Try 'I'm concerned' or 'I'm worried' instead. The last thing you want her to do is shut you out."

• If you find out after the fact that your kid met a stranger, ask why.
"If they do meet someone online and you later find out about it, ask your teen what made her think this was okay," Dr. Lisa advises. "This might make you get out of your own head and into your teen's logic. They have a whole other logic about meeting people online than we do. There's no way to understand them unless you get a sense of where they're at--not where they should be at. Keep in mind, it's part of the teenage years to feel invulnerable and quote-unquote unique. They truly believe 'this will not happen to me.' Parents need to show there are other teens just like them out there and it did happen to them."

How do you talk to your teen or tween about meeting strangers on MySpace?


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30 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous June 28, 2008, 7:35 PM

Nicee.
The scare tactic?
“If you have a myspace you’ll be raped, mhm mhm”

But then again thats really all there is at “momlogic.com”.

My mom uses logic but hers isn’t scaring me with references to idiots and Dateline until I cry at the site of a computer

Anonymous June 28, 2008, 7:36 PM

Nicee.
The scare tactic?
“If you have a myspace you’ll be raped, mhm mhm”

But then again thats really all there is at “momlogic.com”.

My mom uses logic but hers isn’t scaring me with references to idiots and Dateline until I cry at the site of a computer

ToldUNo June 29, 2008, 10:02 AM

Scare tactic? I think not. It really does happen. There is educational information, and advice here.

Yes talking is the key. How old are you? Something about this site brings you back, so it can’t be all bad.

This girl’s parents are broken and shattered.

momof9 June 29, 2008, 1:23 PM

I found that the most effective way to teach my children how information on the net can be used was to show them. I let them choose a college classmate that I did not know and simply tell me their screen name. I then went on an information gathering spree. They were amazed at the information I could get just from the internet and using my limited computer skills. Then I visited some of the students favorite sites and got into chats with the student which gave me even more information. I even got them to add me to their friends list. Lastly after several months of chat and e-mail and exchanging a few snail mail items the student really wanted like a used text-book the student needed. I and my teens arranged a meeting with the student and showed up. She and my teens all learned a very good lesson that they will never forget. I think they will never again just accept what strangers say online… somewhere in the back of their head they will always have that little doubt I hope that I planted there.

Jill June 30, 2008, 2:15 PM

As the Mom of a 5 year old…I love what momof9 wrote! I am very honest and up front with my daughter..she is very mature for her age, so we have begun to explain to her in basic terms that the world has some bad people in it. I think too many people keep their children too guarded and not ready for the real world. As a parent yes, we hope that our child never deals with a situation such as this, but I believe being OPEN with them will be the biggest help you can give them. Telling them what to do, how to do it never works, you need to think about how THEY see things, that nothing bad can ever happen to THEM. Use that to your advantage and show them the bad things that happen to kids “just like them”, that will work better than any punishment.

I feel for this family though, what a horrible nightmare! Hope they quickly capture the animal who met with her…

questioninginvt June 30, 2008, 10:28 PM

Brooke Bennett has been missing for less than a week. The police are still investigating the case and haven’t said for certain that she met someone on myspace. In fact, the investigation is now centering on a family member. While I can recognize the danger of child predators on the Internet, let’s not jump the gun in lumping Brooke Bennett into that category yet.

Christine P July 2, 2008, 2:44 AM

This is so sad. I can see where this can have arguments either way. I have a 13 year old son and a 13 year old girl accidentally texed my son. He said it was the wrong number and told her she does not know him. well, you would think it was over, but the little girl kept on asking him questions and asking him what he looked like,how tall, eye color,and does he have a girlfriend. I’m sitting close to him. We were watching a movie. By the third tex I asked him who it was and he showed me. I could tell it was a very young her because of her wording and she was very forward with the questions.
She asked his age and told him what school she went to. She started telling him everythig about her. Then she shocked me and said where her and her girlfriends were going later. I was trying to get my son to ask her for her home number so I could call an adult. She wouldn’t give that.
These children want attention they are not getting from family. It’s not just the girls. My son’s friends tell him stories that just scare me to death. I can’t be with my son all the time but we talk all the time and I know everything he is in to.
We must do our best to keep these kids safe.

amber August 5, 2008, 7:41 PM

as a teen , telling us not to have myspace ect. doesnt work, it only makes us want it more, my advice is give your teens freedom but just moniter it say for example with myspace, check the comments and what your child has been doing on there every sat night or something, harassing them will only make them do stupid things.
i know this because im a 15 yr old girl and my parents let me have no freedom at al and it isnt good for etheir parties.

katie February 9, 2009, 5:37 PM

okay when kids first star to have a myspace they star to wanna explore so they het to know the website meet new people they get attention from and they start to like it so when the outher person asks them to meet them they dont think its a nad idea when on reality it is they just dont understand what can happen and what has happened to kids due to this wensute

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