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ChatRoom Anxiety & Paranoia (CRAP)

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 
I considered posting this as a reply in the "Talking Dirty" thread, but decided to make it a new thread for a few reasons, A) I don't believe one really needs to read that entire thread to understand my point, B) because this is not aimed at anyone specific within that thread, but rather an argument against a widespread mentality, C) posting new threads gives me a sense of power, and (the most important reason by far) D) this is one more step on my road to "Princess Post-A-Lot" status.

I would first like to ackowledge the fact that this is generally understood to be a 'support' forum, and this thread is neither asking for personal support nor giving support to another.

However, I am asking for support... support for teens worldwide, to be assisted, rather than hindered, in their own quest for support and understanding through the net... a quest not unlike that which brought all of you here.

Those of you who have read the "DD Talking Dirty" thread (and I recommend it, if only to see me posting a lot ) will remember a prevalent idea. It states that the Internet might be safe, or at least an acceptable risk (due to the abundance of knowledge and how readily available means for censorship are), but the real-time communication medium known collectively as "Chat Rooms" is another story altogether. I have dubbed this irrational fear: ChatRoom Anxiety & Paranoia, hereafter referred to as CRAP.

Those who have read the afore-mentioned thread will likely also remember the fact that I took exception to such a belief, and put forth my reasons. Why, then, am I posting here? Is it because I have nothing better to do? Well, yes. Do I want to beat a dead horse? Almost certainly. But there is more to it than that. First of all, I did not cover several important points. Second, those points I did cover were scattered throughout my other opinions, specifically opinions about teens and sex.

For the reasons above, I hereby present my comprehensive (to me, anyway) argument against the CRAP mentality. Before reading, I suggest grabbing a snack and blinking repeatedly. This is a lengthy one.

I will attempt to refute or minimize the popular myths surrounding chat rooms in a straightforward list, since I am far too lazy to present it in a snazzy essay format.

1) Talking in Chat Rooms is 'dangerous'

By far the most prevalent theory in the CRAP belief structure, this idea postulates that 'perverts' patrol chatrooms, looking for teens to prey on. This is most definitely the subject I checked in on the most in the previous thread, but I will present all of those points (and maybe more!) in one section, here, for ease of reading.

1a) Teenage Intelligence: Perhaps the most overlooked reason the danger of chatrooms is minimal is simply the intelligence of teenagers. Most computer-using teenagers are well aware that rapists exist, and, like anyone, have access to the net.

A common stereotype of the computer age is the computer savvy teen and clueless parent... this may be an exaggeration, but it is an exaggeration of a simple statistic fact. Most teens know of the dangers of the net, and it is likely that those few who don't either A) also have no interest, or B) could be enlightened by a few informative words from a parent.

Statistics show that the greatest danger age is 11-14.
(800-suspected-internet-related child abductions in 1998. This fact is taken from the internet protection company Symantec, however, and so is somewhat suspect. The real figure may be lower)

Statistics of missing children, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, NCIC, are as follows:

Juvenile….. 801,332. This, however, includes things like runaways.
Endangered .106,332, counting most abductions, including ones by parents and such.
and... Involuntary .33,908 cases... this refers to blatant kidnappings.

800 may have sounded high, but when compared to the other statistics it seems somewhat.... lacking

The reason younger teens and preteens are more at risk is, of course, that younger teens are less likely to take as many precautions as older teens. Does this mean they should be banned, and older teens let free? Certainly not. Does this mean their parents should take more interest in what their child is doing online? Yes. Does this mean their parents should discuss safe internet behavior with their child before they reach the 'danger age' of 11? Yes!

1b) Perv Prevalence: While chatroom predators are the frequent subjects of magazine articles and horror stories, their actual prevalence is questionable. I just spent several hours entering every possible keyword into google, from internet-related to rape to predator... and got a slew of sites. But not a single one, including government sites about the Child Protection Act, posted a single statistic....a solid number on just how many net predators are even suspected to be out there.

I wonder why....

Since I have been unable to find facts regarding Perv Prevalence, I will take the coward's way out and challenge you to find evidence, actual numerical fact, that supports the CRAP claim of internet rapists being more prevalent than, say, in-person stranger-rapists. (relatively infrequent... rape by someone you know is, statistically, the most likely. Rape by a spouse comes in a close second.)

1c) The "Virtual Factor": The simple fact that rapists can't reach through a screen and abduct your teenager. There are no doubt the occasional cracker rapists, who could perform sophisticated technical maneuvers to discern the identity of your teen... but restricting chatroom access in such a situation is somewhat akin to forbidding a teen from taking a shower, for fear they might slip on a bar of soap.

Barring crackers, what threat do net rapists truly pose? Verbal abuse or heckling may be a possibility... but it's also a possibility when doing anything that involves human interaction.

All that remains is the fear that your teen might unwittingly go to meet a rapist. This, first of all, ties into 1a: your teen is likely smart enough to take precautions. If you fear your teen lacks the foresight to plan, then I suggest you talk to your teen about the dangers of meeting someone in person. If he or she wants to meet someone in person, it is your duty as a parent to know this, and help take precautions. It is not your duty to forbid them from meeting anyone, nor your right.

2) Net relationships don't do any good.
This seems to be the less prevalent CRAP belief, at least on these boards, but it requires addressing because it is even more flawed than the danger beliefs, and it has come up.
I will address this with one primary argument and, if I get around to it, some secondaries.

2a) The Hypocrisy Syndrome
Where are we? Unless I'm quite blind, we are communicating in a public forum. And, again, I could be wrong, but I suspect that this forum is designed as a support network, through which you can speak with other mothers and garner advice and simple kind words from people you have never met.

I have several times seen people belittle chatrooms in one breath, then speak of how wonderful their comrades in Mothering are in the next. Does this strike no one as hypocritical? If the friendships you've made in this forum are valid (and I think they most definitely are), then why are the friendships your children make automatically suspect? Automatically dismissed as dangerous, frivolous, or fake? Why is it likely that the people they meet would be predators, but unlikely that those here would have anything but good intentions?

Or is it the real-time aspect? So none of you would like to speak with your friends here in real time? I find that hard to believe.

I find it ironic that those of CRAP mentality would come to an internet forum, to say that teens should under no circumstances be allowed to participate in internet forums.

2b)My own Experiences: These, of course, are not valid as arguments. But I needed to have another subset of 2 .
I have made easily 100 friends on the internet, in various forums. These forums have ranged from net-gaming platforms (such as Myth: The Fallen Lords, and Diablo 2), to open chatrooms (a D&D server and an LotR forum, to name a few), to private communicae (specifically: ICQ and AIM), to Message Boards (already made a few here ).

have met, I'd guess, about 15 of my net friends in person, if that. Some of my closest relationships, which have spanned some 4-5 years, have never actually involved in-person communication. However, I would bet my life on their identity. There is no doubt in my mind. I know too much about them, have spoken about too many random inanities, and, for the most part, spoken on the phone. I do not think my experiences are abnormal. I also think that my life would not be nearly as happy as it is if I did not have those friends.

3) The Mechanics of it All
It is important to note the mechanics of an internet relationship. Teenage Chatrooms may well hold occasional perverts... but what about private AIM chats with people who, like the above (2b), are known quite well by your teen? What about chat in a net gaming situation? Few people buy video games and spend time on them to lure kids, because more than half the people playin the game are young men anyway. Chat can occur in a variety of places, and banning it indiscriminately is likely not a very good idea.

For these reasons, I believe that attempting to in any way hinder a child's access to chat rooms, rather than assist and inform, to be a decision based upon CRAP. I hope that this list has swept away some, if not all, of your CRAP.

I thank you all for coming this far, and wish you well in all your endeavors, or at least the ones I agree with
post #2 of 47
But NMs daughter WAS participating in sexually explicit behavior. No, it was not with a 45 yo rapist, but it was sexually explicit none the less. If I may speak for Nursing Mother, I would just like to say that one point that you are missing is that she is raising her children in a household that believes that engaging in sexual relationships outside of marriage is a sin. And sexual relationships include "talking dirty" to people on the internet. I understand that in your household, this is not the practice, but I think we should respect the customs that each mothering family chooses.

I think that restricting her daughters chat room acccess was a perfectly justifiable response, as her daughter was given the freedom to use the computer however she saw fit, and she chose to violate the rules of the house by going into chat rooms that directly violate the family's moral code.
post #3 of 47

once again I am getting a kick out of you!

I have been on internet chat sites for quite some time. Mostly gardening related stuff mixed with ethnobotany (lots of that actually). I met my husband in an IRC chat that was set up through a discussion board much like this. Many of my best friends I have never laid eyes on. The net and chatrooms have enriched my life beyond belief. Yet, I have never been subjected to internet porn pervs. No more than here.

Actually, I see more pervs here than I have in chat. We have all seen the posts that crop up in the breastfeeding forums. We detect them immediately and go on about our biz, ignoring stupidity.

I was going to bring up the religious issue. It makes a huge difference in POV (point of view) between myself and NM or boysrus.
post #4 of 47

Re: ChatRoom Anxiety & Paranoia (CRAP)

Well I have another acronym,

Children Rebel Against Parenting

I must say, Dan, that I hope my children can hold a debate with as much gumption as you do. I have always been a hothead and usually fly willy-nilly without bringing home my point. That's irl. Here on the message board I can ponder at my lesiure what and how I want to respond. I'm learning how to apply this irl and with parenting in particular.

I'm going to respond here - with this caveat -
The original thread involved a 15yo; it is this age and younger that I most refer to when I'm responding. The closer one draws to the age of consent (16 and up, depending where you live) the more maturation has taken place. (We hope)
Originally posted by Dan Frank
1) Talking in Chat Rooms is 'dangerous' ........
Statistics of missing children, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, NCIC, are as follows:
Stats are pretty meaningless to me also. It's 100% if it happens to me. The fact that the numbers aren't out there could also mean that they just don't know how many are out there. That does not lead to the conclusion that there are few, does it?
Net relationships don't do any good.
I certainly don't think that. I think that life without them is just as good as life with them. I think there are many, many, many places to meet people and develop friendships. Again, I ask, how am I damaging my young teen by keeping them away from a chat room?

post #5 of 47
Thread Starter 
Boysrus, one of the reasons (should have clarified, will edit clarifications in) I posted this in a new thread, beyond my several attempts at humor, was that this is not aimed at NM, it is rather because of her. I highly doubt any argument I say will change her mind, nor do I think it would do much good to try. This is a more general discussion of the topic.

As for religion... I agree with you, it does indeed make a difference. But again, note that my argument against CRAP does not specifically address anti-cybersex sentiment. It addresses anti-chatroom sentiment.

If one's religion bars sexual interaction, then certainly cybersex would be anathema (I personally do not believe a parent has the right to force a child to adhere to religious beliefs, but this is definitely not the post for that). It does not follow, however, that all forms of chat be automatically banned for fear that your teens might engage in cybersex. I'll admit my knowledge of the Bible, Q'Ran, and Torah is somewhat lacking, but I don't believe there is a proscription against AIM. ("Thou shalt not chat"?)

Chanley, thank you . See my response above about the religious issue.

El's, I prefer to call it Children who Hate Asinine Tenets.

Stats are important. It all relates to the likelihood of something detrimental happening versus the gain, even if the gain is only entertainment. Eating sushi isn't necessary, but damn is it tasty! There's danger in eating sushi, though, isn't there? Will you forbid your kid from eating sushi? I think telling a teen he can, under no circumstances, eat sushi... is ludicrous.

I already acknowledged that the lack of numbers doesn't prove my point. However, one would expect the proponents of the Perv Prevalence theory to at least compose estimates. Yet they don't. Why?

You are damaging your teen by irrationaly forbidding an interesting life experience that is certainly no more harmful than riding in a car, and likely safer than eating sushi, too.
post #6 of 47
Would you like to explain to me where I am being irrational?
post #7 of 47
Dan, Dan, Dan,

You certianly do keep us on our toes!

(ya know if you would have broke that post up into several you would a lot futher along the way to "Posting Princess" )

Ok it's late and I can't remember what I wanted to say. I am still in shock from the series of explicit porn sites that just popped up on my screen....it took me a good 5 mins to get rid of them all, as my son (19) laughed his head off at me!

I must say I doubt that any of the parents here are forcing their religion on their children. In my experience children that grow up in loving christian homes(or jewish, hindu,etc....) tend to respect and follow that faith while growing up with their loving parents....often embracing their parents religion for life.

Now, about chat rooms. I have said before that we have found them to be a time waster. Not inherintly evil, but for many, simply sucking the ambition out of them. I would not encourage my teens to spend hours on end chatting on the phone or in person with friends either. There is wisdom in moderation and restraint. I prefer to help my kids come to this realization on their own but I respect parents that feel the need for more limits. This is a culture of fast-foods and entertainment. Too much of either will make you puke!!

Well, that is my 2cents worth.

post #8 of 47
Have you heard of Judith Levine? She has a new book out that may interest you.
post #9 of 47
Thread Starter 
Wait a second... either religion is a valid reason for banning chat rooms or it isnt.

If it IS, then that is because the parent is justified in forcing their teen to adhere to their religious principles....

If the parent isn't forcing the child into religion, then the child doesn't need to respect those religious principles, eh?

If a Jewish dad made his kid eat only kosher food, or forbade leavened bread on Passover, would he not be forcing his child to adhere to religious principles?

And yes, SummerLover, recently read about Judith Levine's book in TIME... sounded interesting.

El's, you are being irrational because you are forbidding a mostly-harmless source of vast entertainment and enjoyment because of the slight potential for harm... As i said, it is no different than forbidding the consumption of sushi.
post #10 of 47
Ya know, Dan, as much as I would like my children to experience EVERYTHING that there is in the world. Go everywhere, taste, touch, smell, hear it all. Read everything ever written, walk thru all of life...............I have neither that much time with them or money to do that. So I WILL decide some of what is going to happen in my short time in their lives and then they are free to do, go, be whatever.

So, you say because I won't let them do it all, I'm irrational.

Nope. Doesn't fly here.

In fact, at this point, I might postulate that you are being irrational in your defense of a chatroom. Perhaps you should take a look inside, Dan, and see why this is soooo important to YOU.
post #11 of 47
Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I thought the real issue was in the forbading not the actual "thing" that was being forbidden. I think Dan's issue (at least the way I am seeing it) is that in forbading your teen to do something a parent is denying them an opportunity.

Well I have said before, regardless, I think forbidding is not the correct way for my house. I want to know WHY the behavior is arising. Many people have "chats" on the computer and it does not get sexual. What would draw your teen to sexually oriented chats? That would be my issue.

I dont see how Dan is being irrational at all, i simply think he is enjoying a debate and feels that for him, the action taken was not conducive to his learning environment.

But I am putting words in Dan's mouth and he obviously fills his own chompers with words far more eloquently than I.
post #12 of 47
No, Chanley, my issue in this discussion has been the chatroom. Not the computer, or the internet, or sexual discussion for that matter. And as I've stated previously, I don't chat. So if you are saying that I'm forbidding something that I'm doing, think again.

And as for NM's action. If you read the original post again she says that dd seemed relieved to be discovered. And probably relieved to have parent's irrational act to fall back on as an excuse to not chat. It may have got beyond where she was comfortable and she (at 15yo) needed help getting out.

And this horse is very dead. I'm off.
post #13 of 47
Thread Starter 
Both my need to have the last word, and my desire to mutilate corpses () has driven me to post yet again.

El, assuming you read this... Chatrooms are an aspect of the larger picture. The point is, forbidding anything as harmless as chatrooms or sushi (which is to say, mostly harmless) is irrational. As for the argument that your time with your kids is limited, and you should therefore do what you can to ensure that you enjoy it..... is forced quality time really very quality?

Few kids will try to do everything, but imo you should support whatever your kid does decide to do so long as it is not life-threatening to themself or another (and I believe the above argument proves that it is not), whether your child loves chat rooms, hates them, or is indifferent (much the same way that you would support your childs desire to eat sushi frequently, occasionally, or never).

And ime, kids rarely 'want to be caught'.

Despite my earlier corpse-mutilation comment, I don't think this horse is dead till the arguments stop flowin' through my fingers. As you can see, it hasn't happened yet.

As for the attempt to turn this into ad hominem mudslinging, El, I will simply give such a comment the retort it deserves and ignore it.
post #14 of 47

I think you misunderstand me. I have NEVER said what NM did was "wrong". I dont view the world in rights or wrongs in that regard. I am not the mother of her daughter therefore, I cannot make the best decisions for NM's family. I have lauded her actions a few times.

However, for my family that would not be the correct method of dealing with this situation. I can only speak for myself.

Now I ask, how can you condemn something which you have no experience yourself?
post #15 of 47
I'm bumping this for JW, since I don't think she's read it...
post #16 of 47

Re: ChatRoom Anxiety & Paranoia (CRAP)

Originally posted by Dan Frank

1b) Perv Prevalence: While chatroom predators are the frequent subjects of magazine articles and horror stories, their actual prevalence is questionable. I just spent several hours entering every possible keyword into google, from internet-related to rape to predator... and got a slew of sites. But not a single one, including government sites about the Child Protection Act, posted a single statistic....a solid number on just how many net predators are even suspected to be out there.

For these reasons, I believe that attempting to in any way hinder a child's access to chat rooms, rather than assist and inform, to be a decision based upon CRAP. I hope that this list has swept away some, if not all, of your CRAP.

for what it's worth, about every 2 months in my town the police arrest a man who has drive or evenflown here to have sex with a youngster he has met on the internet.

I would also like to add that there is a big difference between live chat and a moderated forum like this one. I have spent a lot of time in chats, and yes, i have been subjected to the occasional dirty picture or perverted come-on. it IS out there. And frankly, if a parent thinks that the internet is a thing their child can do without, it is entirely the parent's decision.
post #17 of 47

Take Back the Chat?

asha posted:
for what it's worth, about every 2 months in my town the police arrest a man who has drive or evenflown here to have sex with a youngster he has met on the internet.

I would also like to add that there is a big difference between live chat and a moderated forum like this one. I have spent a lot of time in chats, and yes, i have been subjected to the occasional dirty picture or perverted come-on. it IS out there.
I'm just thinking on the keyboard here, but if you're right, and the perverts are out there, and if Dan, Chanley, FatherDove and other pro-chat folks are right, and there is much to be gained from chat room dialogue...

Maybe it is time for parents and teens to make a concerted effort to promote fun discussion in chat rooms that doesn't violate or lead to violations of other people. It recently occurred to me that women were once accused of causing rape by walking alone at night or wearing short skirts. There were two obvious options for women -- don't do anything that might be construed as an invitation for rape, or risk getting raped and have it be your own damn fault. Women didn't accept either of those options. Instead, they worked to raise consciousness and change people's perceptions of short skirts and walking alone at night. Clearly, entering a chat room is no more an invitation to perverted come-ons than wearing a short skirt is an invitation to rape.

Perhaps the choices here are not simply ban chat rooms or open the door to internet perverts... Perhaps the third, better choice is for more wholesome folks to get online and into chat rooms to change the perceptions and expectations people have about chat room relationships!
post #18 of 47
I also think it depends on the type of chat room. Not all chats are created equal.

I get more provacative crap in spam than I ever will in chat.
post #19 of 47
Thread Starter 
Thank you asha!! I appreciate that someone has given me a numerical estimation... without opposing arguments, I'm left having to dissect myself! And lemme tell ya, it ain't pretty.

My first question is.. do you know the nature of the relationship? I mean, was the guy 22 and the girl 17, and therefore illegal? or even, say 25, and 15. Did the girl know his true age and identity? If not, then yes, that is a decent statistical basis to go on...

If yes, then we need to know how big/computerized a city you live in (hypothetical, not asking you to give that info out, of course)... see how representative it is of other areas, etc...

Assuming it really is 6/year/city... then thats a sizable amount of rapists. yet it doesnt compare the the rapes that occur walking, as Nawny said, down the street at night.

post #20 of 47
My city is a tad over 100,000 people, and very white-collar. The men involved in these incidents ranged from 25 to over 50, if I recall correctly. the girls were 13-16. In a few instances the police found handcuffs, rope, duct tape etc in their vehicles. In one instance the police showed up at the hotel room door to find the two having sex.

These are only the situations where people get caught.
I have no idea what the girls knew about the men.

As an aside, how weird is it to actually FLY a long distance just to have sex??? I don't get it.

And the suggestion to go into chat WITH your child is an excellent one!
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