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    Parents

    I have received this information from a Parent that is deeply concerned about the activity that our children are engaging in on line with or without your knowledge. While sites like Facebook have been known to cause a lot of hurt feelings and suicides (four in Texas to date this year and one attempted suicide) there is a potentially more dangerous site for your children to be on. The site is called www.formspring.me. Many of your children have this site without your knowledge. You can try to access your child’s site by putting in the url and then your kids name – some kids will chose to go with an alias but most use their names (i.e. www.formspring.me/firstlast). If you can’t find it using your child’s name – use one of their friends name and then daisychain that way to see if your child is on the site.

    What makes this site so dangerous is that there is a feature that your child turns on that allows other kids to post anonymously. This is where most of the abuse is occuring but not all. The problem with being able to post whatever you want is that it will embolden your children to move to the next level of bullying – in person. We are raising a society of kids that think it is normal to be called names. Our children have been the victims of the name calling on this site and others and for many of you reading this note – your children have been the victims as well.

    Please check your childs sites – it is possible for them to remove the post if they know you are going to look at it so I would recommend you check first. Also, since some of the kids are out here with alias’s you may not realize that your child has a site like this. There are cybertools out there that will record every keystroke from your child’s computer without them being aware. www.topsoftwarereviews.net/ ; internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/ ; www.consumersearch.com/parental-control-software/reviews

    It is important to understand how Formspring.me works – a child will set up the site, they will chose whether or not to allow anonymous post (most do). Then someone visiting the site is free to ask them questions – it can be as simple as “thoughts about me” or “what did you do this weekend” and then your child will answer. In some cases if the post is bad, your child will tell the poster to go away, leave me alone, or ask who this is? In other cases if the post is bad, they will respond back in kind with equally or even more vulgar comments. A child can daisychain from one site to another – so even if they are not friends with the person they will be able to see what is posted. I have been monitoring the site for over a year and am seeing the post continue to escalate.

    Comments were pulled from approximately 10 – 15 kids sites that attend our schools. It is a random sampling from a variety of kids from different groups of friends – some popular, some not. There is not a comment in the list below that includes a childs name in order to protect their privacy in this email communication. Keep in mind though, that this is public information and accessible by anyone who knows how to look for it.

    I would encourage you to monitor what your kids are doing online, insist on passwords to their emails, social networks, and only allow IM that can be recorded. Many kids use IM because in many cases it is not recorded like an email is so they think they can say things without their parents knowing. Texting is also another form on online bullying – if you don’t have a plan that allows you to read your childs text messages I would encourage you to move to a plan that does.

    If your schools offer cyberbullying classes for parents, I encourage you to attend. If they don’t then we need to recommend bringing one to the area. I truly believe that most parents don’t know what is going on on-line which is why I have asked Kelly to forward this note to the Mom’s group. Senator Wendy Davis is working on getting a new anti bullying law passed that will include language about cyberbullying. There is also a site that a mother Christine Jackson started called Families Against Bullying. http://familiesagainstbullying.org/

    May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGail

    This is terrible and all too common. Please help your children, and all other children, through knowledge of what your child is doing; limitations & boundaries and guidance. FaceBook is not harmless. The internet is not harmless. Current news article from our community on the subject: KREX TV: East Middle School Students in Trouble over Facebook Threats As you read, these kids are not in trouble - they are causing harm & trouble. Much love Gail, thank you for sharing your wisdom & experience.

    May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGail

    **correction - Link to KREX TV: http://www.krextv.com/news/around-the-region/Middle-School-Students-in-Trouble-over-Facebook-Threats-119886559.html

    May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine