After reading the prompts for this section, and going through the articles I immediately knew what I wanted to write about. Back in middle school, my brother and I both received our own laptops as a graduation present. Little me, felt like the coolest person in the world. The internet was at my finger tips! I didn’t have to share a computer with ANYONE anymore. SO MUCH POWER!!!! What no one explains to middle school children is how to protect yourself on the internet. Basically, they rely on you to use your common sense, and hope that your innocence will shield you. At least, that’s what was hoped for me.
Fast forward a year into having my first computer (that at the time I primarily used for school, neopets, and to watch DVD’s), my friend group got into a craze over IMVU. This platform allows you to create an avatar, and go into different chat groups, connecting you with people from all over on certain pages, as well as having the option to connect with just your friends. At first, this was a great thing. I could see my friends at school during the day, chat with them at night. We’d log into the same groups when connecting with people we didn’t know. Everything was fine…until it wasn’t.
One day I logged into a chat group with people I didn’t know, and someone started talking to me (for the sake of this story, let’s call them Bill). I didn’t think much of it, they seemed friendly enough. We wound up talking regularly when I’d sign in. One day, I had spent the entire day online talking to Bill, and the next thing I knew I was receiving a friend request on facebook. I froze when I saw the name Bill, but didn’t think anything of it. I did not accept the request, but continued to talk to Bill on IMVU. Suddenly, they started asking me why I hadn’t accepted their friend request. I countered with how did they find my account in the first place, I never told them my last name or any location information. My stomach churned. Two hours later, I was crying to my Mom as he started to threaten me and my family because I did not accept his request and had stopped talking to him. My Mom took over from there, immediately reporting him, deleting my IMVU account, and disabling my facebook.
The dark side of the internet is scary. However it comes to us all in different ways. Regardless though, I think that because technology has become such a regular thing in our lives, we need to teach those that are now growing with it how to protect themselves. It’s important that we don’t just use smart technology, but are smart with our technology.