Teachable Moments in Internet Safety

Some of you know that my Meebo is logged in all day – my office is experimenting with being available to members via IM, to encourage our libraries to try it.

This afternoon, around 5, I got a message from someone I didn’t know, on my old AIM account, and since I am kinda “out there” on the ‘net, and I do get messaged by librarians all the time, I feel comfortable disclosing my name:

[14:05] Stranger: hey

[14:05] me: [screen name]… do I know you? 🙂

[14:06] Stranger: I doubt it. How’s it goin’?

[14:06] me: ok… 🙂

[14:06] me: what’s up?

[14:07] Stranger: Nothing really. Who are you? You’re on my buddy list for some reason…

[14:07] me: *lol*

[14:07] me: Beth Gallaway, gamer librarian

[14:07] Stranger: Gamer Librarian?

So, at this point, I am still thinking I am talking to another librarian. Then her buddy icon resolves itself, and it is a photo of a teenaged Asian girl.

[14:08] me: i’m a librarian, working as a trainer and consultant to libraries now

[14:08] me: and I am writing a book on games and libraries

[14:08] me: 🙂

[14:08] me: ring any bells?

[14:09] me: I teach classes in library topics for Simmons, CT state library, and talk at a lot of library conferences.

[14:09] me: and I used to work in [Town], and sometimes gave out this AIM there to library patrons 🙂

[14:09] me: who are YOU? *g*
[14:09] Stranger: Nope. I live in [Town, State].
[14:10] Stranger: I am [First name, Last name] possibly the best person you’ve ever met.
[14:10] me: most definitely.
[14:10] Stranger: Not to sound cocky.

So. Within 5 minutes, this young person gave me their town and full name. We shook virtual hands, and I just knew it had to be a kid… a bit later, after explaining what I do, I asked what do you do, work, school… she replied, “school” and that she had the day off due to the extremely cold weather.

We exchanged some game links (I gave her Set Game and she sent me to Flash Flash Revolution). And I suggested Teen Second Life and she immediately set up an account and gave me her screen name THERE. I gave her my account name and told her to visit the Eye4You Alliance Island.

Before logging off, I couldn’t let go of the fact that she gave personal information to a complete stranger within five minutes of talking for the first time

[14:29] me: just a sidenote:

[14:29] me: you gave me your full name and location within 5 minutes of meeting me…

[14:29] me: and i am totally legit *g*

[14:29] me: 32 yr old female librarian

[14:29] me: BUT

[14:29] Stranger: Ooh. Wow. Yeah.

[14:29] me: i would be remiss not to slap you on teh wrists!

[14:30] me: bad girl

[14:30] me: my myspace is informationgoddess29

[14:30] me: and if you DO get into second life, look me up

[14:30] Stranger: okay

[14:30] me: and keep sending game links 🙂

[14:30] me: take care!

[14:30] Stranger: I will

[14:30] Stranger: lol

[14:30] Stranger: you too

[14:30] me: 🙂

Should I have asked why? If she did it all the time? What her parents would think? Should I have tried to google her name and location, or looked her up on Facebook or MySpace to further prove my point? What do you all think?

I still have no clue how I got on her buddy list. Maybe we can play six degrees of separation if she messages me again.

About Beth Gallaway

Beth Gallaway was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2006 for her work in advocating for videogames in libraries. She is an independent library trainer/consultant specializing in gaming, technology, and youth services, and is a YALSA certified Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainer.
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One Comment

  1. Jami Schwarzwalder [Member]

    I do that a lot too, If someone is on my buddy list I’ll IM and ask who they are. If they seem to think they know me in RL I will then disclose my name because I added them to my buddy list for a reason.

    Part of the exchange is that for some reason you passed the safe list by being on the buddy list in the first place. Most of the time I won’t authorize someone, and from what it sounds you didn’t request authorization from her, but rather she had added you at some point for some reason.

    So in order to finally figure out whether you should should still be on the IM list or not she sent you a message. I am assumeing a second time you passed sharing information with her that was both interesting and valuable.

    This brings up another question though, what if you were at a library reference desk where anyone could answer the Meebo account. Should teens feel safe to disclose personal information to unidentified “Librarian”. I use IM regularly to connect with people, and having a librarian on a buddy list could be great for teens, but where is the line we do not cross? How can we be professionals and build relationships using an informal dialogue. Just food for thought.

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