[ The Trumans - Online Chatting ]

The Internet can be a lot of fun and a wonderful tool. There are massive amounts of information available online. We can buy things without having to travel to a store. We can also download music, pictures and files, as well as many other great uses. Of course, along with all these vast resources, there are also aspects that can be quite harmful. One such thing is chatting with people online whom we don’t really know. Online chatting in and of itself isn’t dangerous, but it can have terrible consequences if you do not know to whom you are talking. In this next story, Phoebe is going to be doing some online chatting. Let’s see what happens.

Online Chatting

"Peter, are you almost done with the computer?" asked Phoebe, "I’d like to chat with a new online friend before the evening is over."

"Yeah, I’m just finishing up now. I just need close up these programs… there, all yours," replied Peter as he pushed away from the desk.

"Thanks bro! I don’t care WHAT Matt says about you, you’re a nice guy," Phoebe joked as she took his place at the keyboard and signed on.

"Hi Jan, how’s it going?" typed Phoebe when she found her friend already online.

"Oh, I’m doing well. I have some great news," Jan typed back.

"Really, what’s up?"

"Well, my parents and I are going to visit my aunt in Oak Ridge this Monday; didn’t you tell me you lived there?" replied Jan. "Maybe we can get together and actually talk and do something in person."

"Wow that sounds great! Where would you like to meet?" asked Phoebe.

"I believe the last time I visited my aunt I saw a park in town. Are you far from it? Maybe we could meet there?"

"I know the park; it’s actually only a few blocks from my house. What time will you be here?"

"Maybe around five o’clock in the afternoon," replied Jan, "Is that okay with you?"

"Yeah, that’s fine. I have school that day, but I should be able to get there in time to meet you," typed Phoebe.

"Great! Could you send me a picture of yourself so I can recognize you?" asked Jan.

"I’m emailing a pic right now, Jan! This is so great. I can’t wait to meet you in the flesh," typed Phoebe.

"Yeah, I know," replied Jan, "Well, I’ve got to go now; my mom is calling me. If I don’t talk to you, I’ll see you Monday. Bye."

"Alright, I’ll see ya then."

On Monday, Phoebe ran off the bus and into her house to drop off her books.

"Mom, Dad, I’m going out to the park to meet a friend. I’ll be back in a little while," yelled Phoebe to her parents.

"Ok," replied her mom, "Just be back in time for supper at six."

As Phoebe threw open the front door, she almost collided with a man standing on her front porch.

"Um, sorry, hello… can I help you?" asked a startled Phoebe.

"Hi Phoebe, are your parents home?"

"Yes they are…hey, wait, how did you know my name?" exclaimed Phoebe in surprise, "Dad, can you come here, please?"

"What’s the problem, Phoebe . . . oh hello, can I help you?" asked her dad as he entered the living room.

"Well sir, I am Officer Phillips from the Spruce Wood City Police Department," he said as he pulled out his badge and showed it to Phoebe’s dad, "We have a situation we feel you and your wife need to be aware of concerning your daughter."

"Sure, come in and have a seat." said Phoebe’s dad, "Dear! Could you come in here, please?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Truman, one of my duties in our department is to monitor online chat lines in an effort to identify and ultimately catch predators that prey on unsuspecting teens. In addition, we also try to educate those who might become victims of these criminals to the dangers they may face."

"I’ve been chatting with Phoebe for the past several weeks under the alias ‘Jan.’ She thought that I was a fifteen year old girl, just like her. I was easily able to establish a relationship with her using the same methods the bad guys do every day. Phoebe was, like so many others, too trusting with her personal information to someone she has never met in person. Phoebe volunteered information on what town she lived in, where she went to school, and even sent me a picture of herself. I was easily able to locate her at school and follow her bus home to demonstrate the dangers the internet can foster.

"In this instance, I was the one Phoebe was going to meet. Under other circumstances I could have been a criminal with intent to harm her. Nobody thinks that something like this could happen to them and wrongly assume that it just happens to other people—that somehow he or she is safe, but nothing could be farther from the truth. My division in the department was formed in the aftermath of an incident in our town where the outcome was tragic. We are all working to see that it never happens again."

"That’s horrible!" said Phoebe’s mom. "What can we do to protect our kids online?"

"Ma’am, the way to prevent this from happening is by teaching your children the following simple rules for online safety." The officer replied.

"Number one: never give out any personal information. For example, their name, telephone or cell numbers, mailing address, school name, town, passwords, etc.

"Number two: never agree to meet with anyone online without your mom and/or dad being with you.

"Number three: choose a screen name that is both non-identifiable and non-gender specific, and never volunteer personal information.

"Number four: don’t trust anyone who tries to turn you against your parents, friends, teachers or their advice, since they may have a hidden agenda.

"Number five: if you ever feel that the conversation is getting inappropriate or they are saying things that make you feel uncomfortable, then stop your conversation immediately and go tell your parents.

"And finally, number six: parents should insist on access to chat logs, and should be aware of online activities their children are involved in. That doesn’t necessarily mean constant monitoring, but being able to access logs, emails, and websites their children visit at anytime is a deterrent to dangerous activities."

"Thank you officer, for all your help," said Phoebe’s dad. "We’ll see to it that these suggestions are followed from this time forward… for the whole family!"

"Yeah, thank you, sir," added Phoebe.

"You’re very welcome," replied Officer Phillips, "Just remember from now on to be more careful when you’re chatting online with someone, Ok, Phoebe?"

"Yes sir," she replied.

Phoebe’s dad showed Officer Phillips to the door and went back to talk with her.

"Well now, Phoebe, what do you have to say for yourself?" asked her dad.

"I’m sorry, Mom and Dad. I should have been more careful. I just never thought about those things"

"You need to be more aware, and your dad and I should have checked out the dangers before we let you start to chat online," replied her mom. "We ALL learned some important lessons today and these guidelines will be the rule for EVERYBODY in the house from now on!"

"Yahweh’s Word has a warning which fits this in Matthew 10:16," said her dad, "It reads: 'I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.' It is good to be nice and friendly, but it is also just as good to have the wisdom to be cautious about people’s intentions."

"I’ll remember from now on," replied Phoebe, "I sure don’t want tragedy the officer mentioned to happen to us, but… can I still talk with my friends online?"

"Yes, you may," said her mom, "We are all now forewarned and forearmed… just be careful, dear."

Chatting is a great way to talk to our friends, but we also need to remember the risks that are involved. There are people in this world with evil intentions, and by remembering these warnings we can minimize the chances of our loved ones becoming a victim.

If you have any ideas for story subjects that you would like to see Peter, Phoebe, Matt, or even Mom and Dad Truman face, please send us an e-mail. Include some scripture helps you think might apply! You may just see your suggestion in an upcoming Newsletter!