It's a dangerous world out there. I'm not just trying to sound like your mom or your teachers; it really is. If you can ever tear yourself away from Wisteria Lane long enough to watch the news, you'd see that girls go missing or get hurt all of the time, and a lot of those girls were taken or hurt by men they met on the internet.
Now, I know you would never intentionally seek out some odd thirty-five year-old man who lives in his parents' basement with a pet rat, but he might be sitting on the internet intentionally trying to find you. Some people are just sick, and they make it their job to be good at hiding who they are and what they like to do with their spare time.
When you are on the internet, there is not a single safe place. Even sites like The Doll Palace aren't completely safe, although I am constantly trying to make it as safe as possible.
You can have a blast making dolls and sharing them with friends, but you don't really know who else is online making or reading comments, checking out dolls, and chatting.
Think about it. If you were interested in finding young girls online, where would you look? These guys (and sometimes girls) are smart and know where girls like you hang out on the internet. There is no rule saying that people have to tell the truth online; in fact, it almost seems like as many people intentionally lie as tell the truth these days. So, the fifteen-year old you're talking to in the forums or chatting with on any website could really be someone in disguise.
Always be on the lookout for certain things:
Someone who seems too good to be true... probably is. If you have suddenly met your dream boy online, he is probably just that – a dream. He's making himself into one and hoping you'll fall for it. Girls have been known to play this trick, too. Think you've find your next BFF (Best Friend Forever?) Think again…
Asking for personal information is taboo on the internet. If a new friend starts asking for your phone number, address, school name, school mascot, or email address, be wary – very wary. You would be shocked at how quickly someone can take a school mascot and an email address and have you targeted. That person can follow you to school, follow you home in the afternoons, and watch you everywhere in between. Scared? Good.
Online flirting can be fun, but very dangerous, and possibly even illegal. You think you are being coy with a high school boy, and the forty-year-old man on the other side of the network is loving it. Yes, we all like a little positive attention, but I don't think any of us want to be the subject of some old guy's dreams. Find real boys your own age at school or community to flirt with. They might actually take you out on a date, anyway.
Watching Your Virtual Back
If you want to keep yourself safe, remember a few things:
Don't post personal information anywhere online, even in personal chat rooms or private MySpace accounts. You may not know who your "friends" really are, and there is always the risk of hackers. Personal information includes things like your full name, your address, your phone number, your school, your school colors or mascot, your favorite hangouts, and even pictures.
Don't show pictures or videos. If you post pictures and videos where anyone can see them, they know what you look like, and that makes it easier to find you in real life. This is true for chatting, too. It's easy to get around real pictures online- just use avatars from The Doll Palace. Create an avatar and you can still show your personality without taking the risk.
Don't meet anyone. You don't know who they really are, and meeting someone from the internet is the most dangerous thing a girl can do. If you don't believe me, check out a book called A Girl's Life Online by Katherine Tarbox to see what really happened to one girl when she decided to meet someone she had been chatting with online. Stick with your school, community, and neighborhood friends- they are always the safest bet.