I had a good chat with a father who wanted to log into his daughter’s account on Momio. The daughter isn’t allowed to be friends with people she doesn’t know in “real life” – but the father wasn’t sure she was respecting this agreement.
We spoke about how neither of us had had online friends. That’s because of our age: There was no internet when we were children. It can be difficult for us to understand how a friendship works online because it doesn’t feel real.
But what is real for grown-ups in their forties, and what is real for the young Momio users are two very different things. We may find it funny when children say they are best friends with someone they have never met. When you add every parent’s worst fear – that a child befriends an adult who has bad intentions… Well, then it’s understandable that parents make strict rules about who their children are allowed to be friends with on the internet.
On Momio, we see real friendships between real children. Children that say things like “I’m happy I found you”, “you’re a great friend” and “I’ve never had a friend before”. Children who have never seen each other face to face, and might never do, but are still good friends. Children who get truly upset if they fight in a chat, and children who worry about what happened to their friends if their account was deleted.
Instead of being old-fashioned and forbidding towards all online friendships on children’s sites, ask for more information. Ask your child to tell you about the friends they have on the internet. Be interested in those friends and take it seriously. You might learn something about real online friendships.