Today, as with many days, I was sitting here in the QandO chat room with ChrisB from Texas. All of the other "regulars" were gone for the day. Then our new friend jane1994 dropped in. She greets us, tells us her real name, and she chats breifly with Chris, but I am busy working. Soon she says she has to go, will we be there at 6:30? Of course I say something sarcastic she does not pick up on, and then she GAVE US HER PHONE NUMBER to call her, if we should wish.
I asked her how old she was, and she asked my name, and I told her I don't give my real name out to people on the internet, as they might be stalkers. Chris then posted a google satallite map to her house while I mentioned how EXTREMELY unwise it is to give your phone number out to strangers. And then, for added fun I googled her and found her 4th grade book report. (2003, so yeah) She of course said the phone number was a fake, etc, but I certainly hope she wont be giving out numbers to anyone else anytime soon.
This whole conversation is alarming. If either Chris or I had a strange fascination with 12 year old girls, she could have been at serious risk. But I don't think she had any idea about the kindof information that can be found about a person on the internet. Google makes all of this especially easy, which isn't google's fault, it's job is to help people find information. But this means that everyone should carefully guard what information about them is made publicly available on the internet.
Parents need to talk to their kids about internet safety and explain the idea that anything you put on the internet is available for anyone to get ahold of. Even if parent's don't have the internet in the house, or restrict their access, it is important that kids understand not to give out their real names, phone numbers or other identifying information. If someone asks your name, give them a fake one, they'll never know you're lying, just like you'll never know if they are lying to you.