Here I am, mere months after raving in this very blog about our awesome plane trip where my kids met up with other kids on Pictochat (on the Nintendo DS) on the plane and chatted the whole flight.
We had a different situation just arise.
The kids were playing Pictochat from different rooms of the house on their DS's. (Pictochat is when you can write, type, or draw pictures to each other, like an IM for kids.)
Suddenly both said, "Hey! Somebody joined our chatroom." A new user appeared, named Turkey123. They all chatted for a time (and I reminded them NOT reveal personal information), then the person left.
I didn't think much of it.
The next morning, Sam came up to me while I was eating breakfast and said he was talking to Turkey123 again.
I asked for his DS and scrolled through their conversation. "Turkey" said they were in 2nd grade. Had a dog named Sunny; a golden retreiver who was curled up with them right now. He asked our pets' names and commented that our cats have halloween colors.
Then I started asking some questions, keeping in mind this is either a kid who's protection needs to be assured, or some adult-a whole different story.
I asked who their teacher was. Nothing... then they said they had to go and logged off. I ran upstairs to look outside because I remembered that Zoe and our neighbor Jake can Pictochat together from their houses, but only when both are in the front rooms. Where the hell was this person situatedto be chatting with my kids?
Now the panic set in. I know all my neighbors. I know all the kids and most dogs. There is no 2nd grader with a Sunny. I called neighbors. No one could think of anyone matching this person. We grow more alarmed as one neighbor calls back to tell me DS's Pictochat has a range of only 65 feet. That means this person is either in the houses next to ours, or even more scary- a car on the street, trolling with his DS to see if a chatrooms has anyone in it, then joins in.
I ask the kids what all they said to this person. Stranger Danger and all that, and how this is a serious thing, because we do not know anyone matching this 'kids' description, and it might actually be an adult. A bad guy.
The next call is to my friend, who is a policeman. I tell him my thoguhts, and he says, yes, call the police, and then call the vets nearby to see who has a retreiver named Sunny (he's clearly a great detective!).
I am freaking out. Every possible neighbor has been called, and no one knows a Sunny. This person had to have been right outside my house. A stranger-talking to my kids. Who now knows where we live. Our pets. I am going crazy. If I didn't have heart issues before this, I would have! (Update-next week after I see a cardiologist!)
I am getting my coat on to go to the police (I figured an in-person visit with the DS in hand to demonstrate how Pictochat works would be prudent), when I mention to Zoe where I am going. She immediately starts crying. A lot.
She says she has something to tell me, but is scared to. The only thing I can think of is that this person said something to her or drew something, that has her so scared.
She's not talking. She is worried I'll get mad. Oh God, did she tell him her name? Personal details? What could it be? I beg. Cajole. Plead. Bond woman-to-woman. Finally, after lots of tears, she says, "I didn't know. I didn't know it would be a bad thing. It was me. I played a prank on Sam and said Turkey123 was on my DS too, but it was all me. I didn't know how serious this would be." More tears.
For me, the weight of the world lifted. The fear dissapated, and I just hugged her. She felt so ashamed to have scared us so, and that it was such a major deal. I was more relieved that you can imagine, and felt she was punishing herself more than I could.
I called the neighbors to let them know. They were all relieved too, and said that this made them all have talks about stranger danger in their homes too. You can never remind them too much, really.
It all worked out. We emerged a little wiser, and a reminder sometimes it can be a scary world we live in. Ay, Mama!