I hit the delete button as my 8-year-old daughter screamed and cried next to me.
“Don’t do it, mommy! Please,” she begged. She was about to hit the 30-day mark on a gaming website about caring for babies that she’d recently become obsessed with, which apparently meant all sorts of exciting bells and whistles that she’d been anxiously awaiting. She even marked the event on our family calendar in the kitchen.
But deleting her account was my only recourse, given that I couldn’t change her name on the profile—her almost-full name—out there on the Internet.
I quickly got rid of her picture, too, the pretty one I'd taken of her before her dance recital. She loved that I had allowed her to put on a little makeup for her big stage performance. I’m not surprised that she had picked that one for her profile photo.
Then I realized she had figured out how to upload her profile photo.
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I scrolled down to find her welcome message, seeking congratulations for her virtual babies and talking about her interest in Harry Potter and Sisters Grimm. And her age.
She might as well have put out a welcome mat to all the freaks on the Internet.
“Who are these friends?” I asked her, pointing to Hello_Kitty33 and a few other people. Their profile photos were of gummy bears and cats, their messages full of emoticons and poor spelling.
“Oh, just people,” she replied. “You can send messages to each other!”
“Messages?” I screeched. “Have you sent messages?”
And then there was silence.