Despite my best efforts to get my kids on email, it’s just not much of a draw for them – nor apparently their friends. Occasional notes from Grandma or Dad just don’t cut it. You go where your friends are. And at least for my 12-year old, that’s the world of IM. I suppose the instant messaging world just has that immediate feedback instant gratification thing going for it.

I am surprised by the frequency with which he finds one or more of his handful of “buddies” online. Someone seems to be there at most any hour. And regardless of what else he’s doing online, he seems to take the opportunity to chat with whoever is there. Most of the chats I’ve observed however, are the conversational equivalent of, “Hey…”. They basically convey that I’m here, and I want you to know that and acknowledge me. There is almost no substance. Which maybe shouldn’t be a surprise, but I do hope as he matures that he does learn how to actually communicate.

His “buddies” are all kids from school who he also knows in person, so it’s pretty harmless. And we’ve had all the talks about how to IM safely. He knows he should only chat with people he knows, and frankly, people I know. Which brings me to the topic of screen names. My son’s name is reflective of his passion for Legos. Most of the other boys on his list have similarly benign names, many of which border on silly. They are 12-year old boys. This seems pretty normal.

Then there’s HotChick. (This is not quite her real screen name. The real one has a few digits interspersed for uniqueness, but the name reads basically as “Hot Chick”). I know HotChick. She’s 12. She’s a delightfully nerdy, bespecaled, plump, 12. I know HotChick’s mom. She’s not any warmer, and has always impressed me as a bit over-protective in parenting style. So what are they thinking? I would question the motives of any full-grown woman cruising the internet as HotChick. Who in their right mind would let their 7th grader be known as such. Even if the moniker is intended to be self-deprecating, this is not going to be apparent to the general public, and is not even apparent to my son.

I’m not usually one to question other people’s parenting tactics, but this one really has me scratching my head. And maybe even concerned for the girl’s safety.

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