Missbimbo1_300 I’ve recently been speaking alot about online safety and being aware of what your kids are doing online.  It’s hard for moms to keep up with everything on the Internet so I’ve made it my job to keep moms has informed as possible.  The newest site to pop up is Miss Bimbo.  Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.  A 23 year-old guy created what he has labeled "the world’s first virtual fashion game."  What this "game" consists of is your daughter getting a naked avatar (for those of you who don’t know what an avatar is, it’s a cartoon character that is the virtual version of your daughter) and dressing it in tight fitting clothing an lingerie.  The object of the game is to snag a wealthy guy.  The way your avatar goes about doing this is getting breast implants, taking diet pills and "getting a nip and tuck" for a brand new face.  What’s scary is that over a million kids between the ages of 7 and 17 are already signed on for this game.  The creator calls it harmless fun that just mirrors real life.  In my opinion this guy should be arrested.  It’s hard enough as mothers to help our daughters keep a healthy body image when they see celebrities such as Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton in the media. 

Our best weapon in protecting our children is knowledge.  Girls (and boys!) need to understand that the real-life bimbos in the media end up in rehab or jail or dead.   Have a conversation with your daughter about this site and use it as a way to discuss healthy body image and the pathetic side of these "bimbos" that they will never see.

Girls_online It was just announced today that a group of state attorneys general have teamed up with social networking site MySpace to form a joint task  force.  The goal is to better protect children from online predators and educate parents about the risks of social networking sites.   As part of this initiative, MySpace will now make private the default profile settings for all members under the age of 18, so that adults whom they do not know in the physical world will not be able to find them.  It will also develop an e-mail registry for parents to block their children from accessing the site.

This sounds great in theory but reality is another matter.  Ask any 16 year-old to give you a "tour" of MySpace.  First, you will find out that there is nothing to stop them from lying about their age.  A 14 year-old girl who wants to meet college boys simply registers as an 18 year-old.  And, do a quick search trying to meet 16 – 18 year-old girls in a particular zip code and a bevy of beauties pops up.  Then it’s just a matter of sending one of them a message.  And creating a new e-mail address which a parent doesn’t know about takes mere seconds.  While it’s admirable for MySpace executives to talk about protecting our kids from online predators it’s virtually impossible when our kids are intent on hooking up online.  It is completely unrealistic and naive for any parent to rely on the government and website executives to protect our children when they really don’t want to be protected. 

According to a study by Pew/Internet, 55% of teens online have a profile and 32% have been contacted by a stranger.    Additionally, of those with a profile, 61% have included the name of their city or town and a full 49% have included the name of their school.  The majority of teens surveyed admit to altering information about themselves and believe that a motivated person could eventually identify them.   For many teens, there is an excitement surrounding meeting people and forming relationships online. 

It is up to parents to thoroughly research social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace so they understand what their children are viewing.  It’s also important to educate teens on the dangers of social networking sites, not just regarding online predators but cyberbullying.  Our kids need to become "cyber savvy" on how to deal with these issues and recognize potential threats.   

Social networking is here to stay and it’s growing dramatically.  As moms, we need to stay ahead of the curve and get smart about cyber safety in order to protect our kids.