Do as I say, not as I do...
I find myself saying that to my kids a lot. We all do. My mom even said it to me about a hundred years ago when I was a teenager. Only back then, she was talking about smoking cigarettes. "Don't smoke" she'd tell me, as she puffed away. And I never did. But these days, what I'm talking about isn't smoking or drinking, it's about meeting people online.
Let me give you a little background. I'm 47, a mother of 2 teenage girls and a blogger. I'm also a music lover. I've been a fan of Duran Duran since high school, but that was before the internet. In the late 90's I found Creed. Their music touched me, and I joined a Creed message board, met a dozen like-minded women my own age and eventually, we all got together in Orlando for a girls' weekend. And it was a blast. Not a psycho in the bunch. I was very lucky.
Flash forward to 2005 when all 5 of the original members of Duran Duran reunited for a new album (what's an album??) and a tour. I joined the offical Duran Duran message board for a chance to buy exclusive tickets. I ended up meeting a group of about 30 like-minded women, most of them moms, all of them awesome. These ladies have become some of my closest friends. They have been to my house, they have met my husband and my children. I feel as close to them as I do my own best friends.
What my Creed friends and my Durannie friends have in common is that I met them all on the internet. However, if either of my daughters came to me and said "Mom I met this awesome new friend on the internet and I want to meet her in person" my first reaction wouldn't be "great honey, I'll try to help you set it up." My first reaction would be one of suspicion, of fear, of a sexual predator. Thanks Chris Hanson and Dateline NBC.
How do I explain to my daughters that it's different for mom than it is for them? Why is there a double standard to my rules? Why am I so quick to trust people that I meet online, yet so quick to doubt and question those people that my daughters meet online? Well, for starters, I'm a grown woman with pretty decent instincts. I've got family in law enforcement, and consider myself a fairly good judge of character. My daughters, however, are only teenagers, and have not yet developed that little suspicious voice in the back of their minds, the one that tells you that something's just not right. They want to believe the best from everyone. They want to believe that everyone has their best interest at heart. In reality, that's just not the case.
I'm going to tell you something that may creep you out. It totally creeped me out when I encountered it. Last summer, my 13 year old daughter wanted to go to an Austin Mahone concert. She bought tickets for her and for me. She also bought herself a VIP package which included advanced entry to the concert to see him do soundcheck, a meet and greet and a picture with him. She was OVER the MOON. It warmed my heart to see her so excited, but I was there with her at the show, and I could protect her. She pointed out people to me that she 'knew' from Twitter but was a little too shy to go and introduce herself. What struck me as completely odd and out of place was the 30 year old man in the group of teenaged fan-girls. He was alone, he wasn't someone's father or older brother. He was a grown man at a concert spotlighting a teenage boy with 99% of teenage girls making up the audience. To say I was extremely suspicious of this guy's motives would be an incredible understatement.
Is it possible that he is just a big Austin Mahone fan? Yes. My daughter says this guy follows her on Twitter, and she's seen his tweets and he really digs Austin. But that voice in the back of my mind tells me something else. It tells me this guy could be a sexual predator, drawn to places where there will be lots of innocent, unsuspecting teenage girls. THAT completely creeps me out and makes me want to NEVER let my daughters out of the house again. Unfortunately, that's impossible. So is wrapping them in bubble wrap, getting them each a shiny new chastity belt or homeschooling them.
I have to let them out of the house sooner or later. But the idea that there is someone out there who could possibly be a danger to them freaks me the hell out. It WAS different for me. I knew who I was meeting before I met them, because I had spoken to them on the phone, and we all met in large groups. There was never a doubt in my mind that I'd be safe. I wish I could say the same for my daughters. Sadly, I cannot.