Earlier today, I got an Instant Message out of the blue… from someone who had visited my SmileZone site and noticed the IM address on my contact page.
After brief introductions, I learned that she’s nine years old! And surprisingly articulate for such a young kid, too.
She was looking to make friends and have a chat but I, alas, didn’t have much time for bantering this afternoon… and at 32, I felt a bit awkward chatting with a nine-year-old anyway.
As politely as I could, I wished her a good day and good luck… but I wasn’t prepared for what came next.
“So where can I find people, then? To chat with… make some friends” she asked.
I drew a blank.
The few online chats I’ve seen tend to be a bit more, ahem, risque than I’d ever want to recommend for a young kid.
And for that matter, I don’t think Web sites in the U.S. can even legally collect contact info from under-14-year-olds, and hence I can’t imagine there being any pen pal-type sites out there for this girl.
So, aside from just impersonally browsing for information, what does the Internet hold for young kids?
With so many of us adults enjoying the personal aspects of the Internet… networking, sharing ideas, making friends… I’m guessing most of us (at least those of us without kids) never stopped to think about how limited young people are.
I know when I was a young teen and likely even earlier, I didn’t have many friends in school. I was too smart… and my social skills hadn’t kept pace with my intellect. Back then, there was no grand Internet to connect with, well, nerds like me for commiseration and learning and befriending.
Of course, the Internet today is filled with people of all interests and ages. But where can the kids go? Our American society has been so paranoid about walling them AWAY from any possible scandalous or controversial tidbit (oh no, a breast… oh no, a bad word!) that I don’t think we’ve given much thought to creating places where kids can interact thoughtfully and more-or-less freely.
Perhaps I’m wrong, however, and I’d be delighted to be pointed in the right direction for kid-friendly resources on the Internet.
Do you know of any good sites for young kids?
And what do you think about this situation in general?