Gross Point Blankl

Internet age poses risks

A 6:15 a.m. phone call on my son's cell phone from an angry grandfather has prompted a review of child internet safety protocol in my household.

I heard his phone ring while I was getting ready for work and thought nothing more of it until my son came to me, shaken, and said, "I'm in so much trouble."

He wasn't in trouble with me, which was big news, so he explained that he'd made friends with a 15-year-old girl in West Virginia.

My son is taller than me, bigger than me and his voice is very deep, though I suspect not as deep as it's eventually going to be.

He also has his own cell phone.

The night before, I had opened his door and boomed, "Get off the phone! It's time for bed!"

He was on the phone to his friend in West Virginia. Evidently, around that same time, the girl was about to get busted by her grandfather.

The problem there is that it was after 1 a.m. in West Virginia.

So the grandfather first called the police and then gave them my son's number. The police encouraged the grandfather to call what they had determined was a sexual predator, my teenage boy.

Filled with despair, my son said, "I'm under investigation! They think I'm a 35-year-old man!"

I smiled and told him, "You're 13 and let them investigate."

I then commandeered the cell phone and promptly called the angry grandfather back.

It's important to note that I back the grandfather and even his tactics. I don't blame him for thinking Dennis is older, he sounds like it, and, like the grandfather had asked Dennis, it was 9:20 a.m. (in West Virginia) so why wasn't he in school?

A few minutes on the phone with by then relieved grandparents was all it took to clean up the mess, but it does beg the question: who all has my son met on the internet and how many people is he talking to on the phone?

Thankfully, the cell phone bill provides me with a detailed list of everyone he makes contact with. Another friend that's a girl, a Texan, I've already spoken to on the phone. He's quite taken with her and it's my business to stick my nose in, well, their business.

What about you? What are your children up to? Have you snooped around to see if they are using Myspace or Facebook behind your back? One friend of my mine learned her teenage daughter had been smoking marijuana because another friend came across it on a popular social networking site.

It's high time we all remember that this is electronic communication and far more risky than we sometimes give it credit.


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