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How Will You Explain a Tweetup to Your Children?

By Cathy Corcoran - 16th August 2011

Recently I had the privilege of having a catch up with an online friend I had made through Twitter - sometimes called a tweetup. I didn't have as much hesitation as I did with my first meet up a few months back but it was still slightly anxiety-provoking.

I'm reasonably new to this friendship-making process online. I was never one to jump into chat rooms or randomly make friends via the internet. This all changed once Twitter arrived on the scene. The ease at which conversation occurs is lovely, and I find the people who appear in my stream of follows to be friendly and their true selves. I do realise of course that occasionally nastiness occurs - that's life. But I have deviated.

When explaining the meeting to my children who were coming along to meet this 'tweep' and her children, I became hesitant, not about the meet up but explaining the context to them.  How do I explain that I am meeting someone from the internet? How do I explain that I have never met her before and what are the repercussions and the thoughts my children may have about this situation?

I actually pulled myself back from explaining the situation clearly. I normally like my little people to know the facts - this also helps with their co-operation with me and at times, their anxiety about new situations. But this whole situation made me question how I was dealing with the issue, or not dealing with it, and wondering how I could better deal with it.

It concerned me what my children might learn from mummy meeting up with someone she had not met before and whom she had only spoken to on the computer. I actually felt scared - thinking that if my children put two and two together - they would think it is quite acceptable to meet people over the internet. They don't of course have the background knowledge and maturity to understand how I was using my own intuition, and conversations with that tweep, as a guide to the safety of the meet up.

Although I can obviously explain further that I don't just meet up with anyone, I'm aware that the simple statement about 'meeting someone whom I've met over the internet' could mean so much more, and could also lead to so much more for children without proper explanation.

Our children are only young, so I'm just beginning to face these dilemmas. It has highlighted for me again how savvy parents have to be about the internet and about implementing cybersafety rules, boundaries and strategies from a very early age.

So what are you telling your children when you meet people for the first time from the internet whom you'd never normally have met? Do you give more of an explanation? If not, how do you set those safe rules and boundaries and continue to meet up with 'tweeps' for example?

Editor's note: thank you Cathy - this post is timely as we have recently published a very helpful feature article from ACMA about teaching children to be safe online.

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