Secrets, Lies & Chat

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Teenagers In Chat In Australia

It's Tuesday evening, 9.17 pm Sydney time, 16 August 2005. Before I get onto the subject ‘Teenagers in Chat in Australia’ I’d like to reminisce a little first.

The cool air comes in on dark still even though Spring is around the corner. We have had the coldest weather of winter in the last couple of weeks with the biggest snowfalls recorded in about 50 years in Australia, I believe. Some people have never seen snow in areas where it has been falling this month. It's forecast to be around 3 degrees celcius here tonight, with -1 only 1/2 hour away. It's great weather for bed though, and much preferred, by me anyhow, to our hot summer nights that drag on for most of the year it seems. I dread the summer coming and hope that by summer 2007 I will be in Western Australia, by the sea, where at least I can walk on the beach with my feet in the water. I have a lovely inground pool and yet, in the heat of our summers, there are days when the only way to get to the pool is with shoes on because of the intense heat of the concrete outside the house. As I am fair skinned I burn very quickly, so outside in summer is not the place for me to be, not in Sydney anyhow. The heat, the flies, and at dusk the mozzies, ruin having a pool to cool off in.We are drought stricken and have been for the last few years. Water restrictions have been in force now since last year, and most of our gardens are dying along with our lawns and indeed, our countryside. The frosts of winter have almost destroyed what greenery there was left from the sparse rain we have had this year. The winter has been idyllic, cold nights and beautiful days with an azure sky most of the time. Small white clouds waft across the sky and, if only the rains would come, it could be called paradise. Our Governments are now at a running pace trying to find ways to increase our water supply by building a plant to convert sea water into water we can use for gardens etc., and devising plans to find other water sources.

Once upon a long time ago everyone had at least one water tank in their yards, but the city fathers in their stupidness outlawed them as unsightly and they were banned in the suburbs. Now, after the horse has bolted, water tanks are back in vogue at high cost to the home owner, and new homes are being built with water tanks under the slab or built into the guttering, along with a water tank standing in the yard, as mandatory items. I wonder when they will allow the urban dwellers to have their chooks back and backyard vege gardens will come back into vogue. I often think about what will happen to all of us if war breaks out. No longer can many of us go out into our yards and feed our families on our own produce. The only thing in my yard that can be eaten are lemons.

Can't anyone see that we have been made to be reliant on supply of all our necessities to the degree that if something goes wrong, we will all be at the mercy of those suppliers? I for one don't fancy lining up for food like my parents had to in the Second World War. My intention is to get out of Sydney as soon as I can and make very sure that where I end up living I can grow veges and have some chooks and also have a water supply that comes from rain. Perhaps I am fretting over nothing, but I trust my instincts, and I feel strongly all is not well in this our world, and there are worse things coming than those that have already invaded our living rooms. I know I'm not alone in my thoughts, as there are many people opting out of city life and Sydney, I believe, is experiencing not only an influx of new inhabitants, but a departure of many others who have had enough and want out. The simple life my parents had, the world I grew up in, was so much further advanced than this world is, even without all the mod cons and all the 'things' we think we can't live without. I visited Camden and Menangle on the weekend, calling in on a couple of my delightful aged aunts, and the memories flooded in of the times in my childhood when I went to the same areas with my parents and swam in the rivers around Camden and Liverpool and the creek at Menangle. Today you wouldn't put a toe in any of those places. The children of the future and indeed of the present, will never know the pleasures in life, the simple ones, that I grew up with. An unspoiled city, a poorer city yes, but what is poor? We had family, we had values, principles, respect. We never missed what we didn't have, we were grateful for what we did have. I treasure those memories and feel a sadness that no one will ever know them again. Prosperity has ruined Sydney and it's time for those of us who mourn the passing of all the things we knew and loved, to move out and leave it to those that never knew those pleasures and therefore don't care they are no longer there.

Now to the subject matter. As an author of a recently published book about online chat and dating, I have managed through some exposure in newspapers and on television and hard work to get my profile into search engines, to become ‘noticed’ by some people who are surfing the net or reading the papers looking for insight into the subject of my book. Since writing the book and experiencing all I did online and in ‘reality’, my passion, an overused word I know, is children online and teenagers. I’m not slow to point this out to anyone who chooses to read what I write or listen to what I have to say. I have said for a few years, and still say loudly, “the Internet is a wonderful world of knowledge, an incredible medium, but it is also a dark place, an addictive place, and indeed highly dangerous”. Some people listen, others make light of what I say, others ridicule me. I take it all on the cuff because those that deny there are dangers have their heads stuck in the sand and are too involved in their own agendas to care about anyone else. I allowed my life to become public knowledge because I care about others more than myself. I have made no money out of having a book published and on the contrary, it has cost me a great deal. I believe I spent my money well and I have already reaped my reward.

I have been contacted by two sets of parents from Sydney. One couple have read the book and now realise their daughter, who they thought was just having some fun on the Internet, is in fact addicted to chat and has brought a degree of danger into their lives by giving out personal details. She has also lied to her parents, something they now realise after reading my story and seeing some signs in her that I wrote about in the book. I received an email from the mother thanking me for giving her an insight into what was going on; something she refused to believe for quite some time. That family is now working hard to turn the tide in their home, and not a minute too late either from what they have told me.

I received a call at work one day after a local newspaper did a story on me, and the book. The lady who called was distraught, unable to work out what was going on in her son’s life. He had become mixed up with a chat group online and had started acting in strange ways. He began wearing all black clothes, had body piercings done, started drinking and taking drugs; all at the age of 14! His parents were distraught, didn’t have a clue what was going on in his life or why. The father took time off work, learned to surf the net, found ways to research the information he needed and when he had enough evidence, he went to the authorities. He and his wife have had a torried, horrifying time; nothing worth doing is easy and this proved that to the extreme. Only for the fact that one person actually listened to them, they would still be fighting for help. But that one person opened doors that hopefully will soon allow the authorities to move in on this group and shut them down. The story they told me is frightening and yet, knowing as much as I do about the Internet, I was not in the least bit surprised to learn all I did. I can’t say anymore than that as I respect their privacy, but be assured, their son is not alone in this. This group is spreading their web across our city, and I imagine across many more cities throughout the world, and all parents who know their kids spend a lot of time online, should sit up now and take notes. Any changes in attitude, dress, activities, friends, should send out loud alarm bells that something is going on that they should find out about post haste. From what I heard this is not something any parent would want their kids involved in, and it starts out so insidiously, so innocently.

Please all of you who have kids who use a computer, take the time to watch them, talk to them, ask to sit with them and watch them online. If they have nothing to hide they won’t object. If they do object, then you best find a way to suss out what they are doing on their computers. A crash course in how to find hidden documents on the puter is a necessity, a spy program, anything at all. This is not a joke, this is not something any of you should be taking lightly. Your children are at risk. If you know they are exchanging photos with other people, be afraid, very afraid. Learn how to surf the net, do searches, find help. I recommend in Australia, a Government run help website that has so much information and help for kids and parents. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t think you are being paranoid. This is a whole new world and it is one that you, as parents, should know as much as you possibly can about. Teach your children never to give out personal information like their real names, their addresses, phone numbers, school information, sporting groups, friends’ names. There are some very clever people online who can track down others with just piecemeal information. Do some serious reading about crime online because it is happening, and your children may very well be mixed up in it already without even knowing it. There is mind manipulation going on to the max in these groups, self mutilation, suicide, attacks on other people are all on the agenda. Kids are being programmed online to carry out some pretty horrific things, and believe me, IT IS HAPPENING as I type this.

Take care, and remember, be aware, be wary, and beware.



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