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Gaia and our teens

Updated on December 5, 2006

Gaia - Is it Safe for our Teens?

If you are a parent of a teen, then you have probably heard about the new "social sites". My Space was the first one I heard about, and there has been a lot of information about protecting our kids on that site. Gaia is one that my 15 year old just found, and it seems much worse than My Space.

This site is enticing for the kids because lots of their friends are joining, and there is a huge network of kids already on it that they can meet. The idea sounds good. A place for teens to meet other kids and talk, play, and blog. Gaia is a little different because you get to design your image when you start, and so it doesn't involve real pictures like My Space. You then have an Avatar that you can dress, get accessories for, and even add pets. You actually walk around in different places or villages and meet people. They just move their avatar around, walk up to someone, and talk to them.

Sounds innocent and fun, right? The site advertises lots of monitering to keep it safe. I haven't seen much monitoring. There are forums or message boards with titles like "Are you horny?" or "masturbating". Even if they stay out of those forums, the kids they meet are always asking her if she wants to "Cyber". You know what that means right? It means Cybersex. They talk dirty and ....well, fill in the rest yourself.

They are able to do this through private chat that is allowed on that site. There is no way to know if they are talking to another teen, or a sexual preditor. Even if it is other teens, is this really a good idea? When I found out what was happening, and what kind of invitations she was receiving, we had a talk. She has always been warned about sexual predators, but she wanted to know if it was harmful to have some fun and write back to these people?

I had to think about it. Kids at 15 years old are experimenting with so many different things. Is fantasy sex a big problem? I just didn't feel it was a good thing. I looked it up on the internet, (Of Course!), and found some information. One problem is that kids can get addicted to the cybersex just like some people get addicted to porn. It becomes an obsession, and can lead to consuming desires to find more and varied ways to fill the need. It can also be a problem for teens, because experimenting this way can lead to unrealistic expectations for the real thing. This can cause problems in later relationships.

At this point, my daughter is pretty innocent, but I know it won't stay that way forever. I would just like to protect her from things that will negatively affect her future. I especially worry about the sexual preditors. She is smart, but an adult who lives to find a target, will use tactics that most teens won't be able to see through. They may be heading for adulthood, but they still aren't able to realize all the dangers out there.

Of course, they already have new friends, and forums they don't want to give up, so what am I to do? Her father and I are ready to close her account. It's not that we don't trust her, it's the other issues that worry us. There are good things happening on there too. She started a post on Kids with OCD, and finally found others who understood her. She can't talk to her friends in school, because if it got out she had OCD, kids could be very cruel to her. So now she has a group of kids to share the trials of growing up with a difficult disorder.

I would really love to hear from anyone with definate feelings on this subject. If you have had similar experiences, good or bad, and have something to share, please leave a comment.

Take Care,

Sierra

Monitoring Software

After a lot of thought, I am debating the issue of monitoring software or just cutting her off from the social sites. I think I like the monitoring idea because she is now Instant Messaging a lot of people she has met, and that will continue even if I shut down her sites. She is following my rules, but still responding to people I consider inappropriate. I will be writing another post about the monitoring software, so check it out if you are considering the same thing.

Comments

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  • profile image

    :]  

    10 years ago

    I agree that the site isn't exactly inapropraiate,but does have a filter for all the bad words , And all you have to do is report the person who offered to "Cyber" And they will be kicked off the site. Yes some of the topics are bad ,but they are at a pg-13 level. I actually play on gaia so i know all the stuff that goes on. I do agree that the site might not be the best for teenagers , but there are some ways to make it safer.

  • profile image

    Felis 

    10 years ago

    My husband and I are both on gaia with two teen daughters that at this time are not allowed on there. We are fighting to try and get something done. The VJ is especially bad right now. I can't look at it without seeing tons of porn videos. My girls loved this site but it has just gotten too bad for them to really be on it and they are so caught up in promoting and advertising they are doing nothing to fix the problem.

  • In The Doghouse profile image

    In The Doghouse 

    10 years ago from California

    I am amazed at how the computer lets you be someone you really are not. Think of how awful that concept is, you can do anything your heart desires and not be accountable for any of your actions. Pretty soon our youth will not be able to distinguish fiction from reality. This is appalling to me, first the TV show "Real World" and now this. Is there going to be anything that is "real" to them before long? Thank you for educating us on this site, I will make sure and avoid it like I do MYSPACE.

  • ExpressionsForLif profile imageAUTHOR

    Lorena Wood 

    11 years ago

    Hi Moonmaiden,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, I checked out the parent information, and it all sounded good. But that was when she first wanted to join. I just reread it again, and it's all good, but not enough. I understand they try, but they just can't controll enough. My daughter just showed me her last 20 emails on gaia. Geesh! She is gullible. One guy is telling her she is amazing, a jewel, so special. He has only contacted her a couple of time, but she is falling for it. I think most adults would see through his crap. I continue to give her stricter rules, but I may just shut her profile down. I am considering a monitoring program, letting her know I will read everything she writes, and that is written to her. Unfortunately, she doesn't want to give up all that (fake) positive attention from boys. I'll let you know what happens.

    Expressions for Life

  • Moonmaiden profile image

    Fayme Zelena Harper 

    11 years ago from Lucerne Valley, CA

    Did you go here on GAIA? http://www.gaiaonline.com/info/index.php?mode=pare...

    It is a parent's information page. At the bottom are numerous safety links.

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