I can remember, quite vividly, the day we got an Internet connection at our house. We set up our Prodigy accounts, my father doing the work and me assisting. Fascinated, even then, with the idea of connections with people around the world via the Internet, I specifically remember the guidelines he and my mother set down. I should never give out my real name, never give my address or other personal information, and certainly never agree to meet in real life anyone that I met on the Internet. Though it was full of information, the message was clear–the Internet could be a scary place.
Today, I think about my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I contemplate my blog and my Ravelry groups. I ponder the online parenting forums I’ve frequented. I think about the writing I’ve done for Associated Content and other online venues. I think about the women I’ve met through the Internet, social networking, and through email/forums/blogs–some in person, some only online.
From a simple Prodigy account, where even the email address was a combination of letters and numbers so you weren’t identifiable, I’ve gone to having a presence on the Internet. Much of that presence is associated with my real name.
It’s amazing how the times have changed, isn’t it? And it’s gotten me wondering about what they’ll be like when the girls grow up.
Because, though I’ve gone against my parents early Internet rules and met people, offered my name, and shared the personal details, I’ve always retained that underlying concern–the Internet is scary. So if I meet someone for the first time, I meet in a public place. I leave details of where I’m going and who I’m supposed to be meeting. I leave my login access behind, so if something happens, my husband has details.
I worry that the girls won’t feel that way and won’t take the precautions I do, because more and more, the Internet isn’t seen as that scary place. It’s seen as fun. It’s social. It’s networking.
My husband and I will try to instill a bit of that fear of the Internet into the girls, the way my parents did in me. Maybe it’s overprotective…but maybe it will keep them just a little bit safer. I care about that more than anything else.