The Dangers of Roblox

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“Can we talk on the bed?” This is my 10-year-old daughter’s code for I did something questionable that I really want to talk to you about, but I’m afraid I’ll get in trouble. 

Sitting on my bed is a safe place in our house, where the kids can tell me anything without fear of punishment. I got the idea from my friend, Barb, who raised four kids and is one of the smartest people I know.

Okay, so you’re not going to be mad…right?” my daughter says when she sits down.

This is the part where I freak out in my head, but I make myself say, in a what I hope is a calm voice, “Of course not, what is it, Sweetie?”

I mentally prepare myself for accidental arson or confessing that the weird kid down the street molested her, but it’s nothing like that. It never is.

“It’s about being online, Mom.”

“Okay, what happened?” Again, I internally freak out, expecting the dude from “To Catch a Predator” to bust through my front door with a news crew and ask me how long I’ve been oblivious to the fact my daughter has been the victim of an online pedophile ring.

But instead, my daughter tells me with tears in her eyes, wild gestures to the ceiling and pinches to the bridge of her nose about her online drama in Roblox.

Roblox is an online platform for kids that hosts a bunch of role play games. Cops and Robbers, animals in packs that have to attack other players and eat them in order to survive, almost educational at first glance. But after you watch it for awhile, it’s really just a bunch of kids walking around chatting in groups. It’s something I would have been drawn to as a kid—virtual kids in a virtual fantasy land with no adult supervision—Lord of the Flies, except they are all pixelated unicorns or tigers on a screen.

The disturbing part is all the lonely kids in corners with dialogue bubbles that read, “I hav no friens, im so sad” or “I hate my life, I want 2 dy.” At first, I thought they might be savvy adults, pretending to lure unsuspecting 8-year-olds into feeling bad for them, but I soon realized that real kids just say, “Okay, bye,” and run off to play, kind of how they are in real life—oblivious with short attention spans. The lonely ones are the ones in danger. All they want is somebody to pay attention to them, making them easy targets for predators, and sadly, there are a lot of them.

I’ve hammered it into my kids’ heads that children don’t ask you what your real name is, or your age and address, because real kids don’t care; they just want to play. Sometimes, the adults wait a long time, pretending to be a kid before they ask personal questions, to gain their trust. As a result, my daughter has become uber paranoid and has made it her personal goal to oust every suspected adult masquerading as a kid on Roblox and have them banned. That’s an adult who is trying to kidnap you! she will scream in all caps in the chat boxes.

But this time, our talk on the bed had nothing to do with predators, although in the past she clued in one of her unsuspecting friends that Peppypants210 was not simply a half-unicorn-half-kid, but an adult trying to score a “playdate” with her while her parents were out of the house.

My daughter is a super confident kid. She is a natural leader and found herself quickly with a mass following on Roblox. She got into an argument with another confident girl over something silly, and it turned into an epic gang rivalry like something out of “The Outsiders” with spies, back-stabbery, and treason. 

As I tried to decipher the core tension between ZippyZappy and herself and the fallout of being forced to unfriend Kiwikitty who the others thought was a spy, I wanted to yell, “Do you know how ridiculous this sounds?”  But in her ten-year-old mind, it was the end of the world. I kept telling myself, listen to the little things, so later she will tell you about the bigger things, but then I realized, right now this was the big thing. So, I listened and coached her.

We had just finished watching a “Lost in Space” episode where Will’s dad makes him put 26 rocks he can hardly carry in a pile, to represent the 26 people Will’s alien robot killed before he became devoted to being Will’s protector. It was to show Will how heavy the responsibility is of having a sometimes murderous alien robot under his control. I reminded her of that episode, and how being a leader is a heavy responsibility, and a good leader attracts others because of their kindness, fairness, and ability to listen to others.

My daughter’s friend told us a few weeks ago how a girl in her class tried to kill herself because of a group of girls bullying her on Instagram, calling her a bisexual and posting mocking pictures. Roblox is an elementary school form of Instagram. The kids’ true selves are hidden behind pixelated, Minecraft looking identities, but this anonymity gives them the freedom to say and do things they never would to another child in real life.

My daughter’s generation is getting schooled early in social media etiquette. We have a chance to be part of that process, but it requires a certain trust and openness between parent and child. I thought about banning her from Roblox, but that would deny her the opportunity to learn how to navigate social media in a responsible way and teach her that when something bad happened online, whatever you do, don’t tell Mom–that, to me, is the real danger.

After our long talk, she decided on her own that she would make things right with –Zippyzappy and apologize and ask if they could start over. She re-friended the girl the group kicked out and told them she wanted everybody to stop fighting and not talk bad about the rival group anymore, even if they talked bad about them. To me, that’s progress and I was happy to be a part of it,  but what made me even happier was hearing my daughter telling me how much it means to her that I listened and wasn’t mad at her.  Nowadays, when she says, “Mom, UnicornSillyCat is online and she asked me something. Can you read my response before I post it and see if it’s okay?” Those are the moments to me, that parenting is all about.

 

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Is God the author of evil? Watch “Vessels of Wrath: A Novel” on YouTube

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Dr. Heidi to the Operating Room, Stat! — James Clark — The Next Iteration

Beware. This is not not a comfortable read. Especially if you call yourself a Christian. But it’s an awesome read. An important read. It’s like literary heart surgery for the soul with Heidi as the surgeon and includes a much-needed look at a little-dealt-with subject as one of its main themes — spiritual abuse.

via Dr. Heidi to the Operating Room, Stat! — James Clark — The Next Iteration

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On Reading, Writing and Discouragement

Growing up,  I read everything I could get my hands on. My mother was a voracious reader and I devoured whatever she had lying around the house. I fell in love with Emily Bronte and Charlotte Bronte. As a shy eleven-year-old, I lost myself in the dark romance of Wuthering Heights and Jayne Eyre. I was captivated by Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, The Outsiders, Little Women and the Lord of the Flies. I remember one time, I realized I had read every fiction book in the house, so I started going through the dusty anthology collections I found on a forgotten shelf and discovered a complete collection of Greek Mythology. I read all of it, entranced by the forbidden world of sex, revenge, and monsters I found there.

My dad kept all my report cards and gave them to me recently. Miss Schaeffer, from third grade, wrote: “Heidi often is caught reading fiction books instead of reading the lesson.” That was me: books at the dinner table, books hidden in my lap at school, books on the bus ride home, books under the covers with a flashlight until 1 in the morning. I lived for my English Lit classes in junior high and high school, where I learned there were hidden symbols and themes, puzzles inside the stories just waiting for me to figure them out. Nothing else held my attention like the well-told story.  I suffered from undiagnosed ADD as a kid and would have probably been a terrible speller if it hadn’t been for the fact that I read so much high-quality literature. Not by choice, it was the only thing around to read and I craved the escape.

As I got older and went to college to pursue a degree in English lit, I still read widely and deeply.  After college, I got married and still read entire books in the bathtub until 2 a.m. I had shelves filled with books bloated with water damage. Reading is what spawned my desire to write. I wrote, then read, then wrote some more. Those dead ancient authors were my mentors and teachers.

Then, smartphones and Facebook happened, social media exploded and I stopped reading fiction. I read, but it was mostly articles and blogs, quick snippets of nothing that I forgot almost as soon as I read them. Granted, having little children put a damper on reading time, it’s hard to concentrate when you get interrupted every 15 seconds, but instead of reading after they went to bed, I found myself on my phone, scrolling through meaningless bullshit. I was too tired and social media sated my short attention span.

I had high hopes for my kids. My daughter had a 50-word repertoire by 8-months-old. She has a natural gift for language. My son taught himself to read very early because he wanted to be able to read the whole Goosebumps collection—which he did by 5-years-old. But then came the world of video games, Roblox and YouTube.  Now, for them, reading has become a cure for insomnia, a chore, an assignment from an old-fashioned mother, something to kill time until they can return to role-playing in Roblox.  The online world is their first love, like reading was for me, and that saddens me.

I would have done the same at that age, but none of that had been invented yet. My imaginary world was between pages, their’s is on a screen. But can I blame them, when the lure of the screen is as irresistible to me as it is to them?

I recently got back into writing after a long hiatus. I gave the first draft of Vessels of Wrath to a friend back in 2007. He was also a writer and I respected his opinion. He loved the first part but said the second part was too melodramatic (he was right).  I got discouraged and didn’t write another thing for ten years. Then, last year, I started writing again, sporadic poems and essays on WordPress. But, again, I got discouraged and quit, because nobody had the attention span to read the longer stories I started writing, even people that liked it. They were just like me, no time to read anything longer than a short article here and there. How could I blame them? I had piles of unread books gathering dust on my bedside table.

But again, I missed writing. I went back and re-wrote Vessels of Wrath. I edited and polished another story, Objects of Pleasure and then sent them out to literary magazines. I had some nice replies, but both were too long for that format. I had a few months of discouragement, but then said screw it and put them on Amazon.

Amazon has taught me this—Literary fiction is a dying art. It’s being killed off by genre writing that didn’t exist when I was growing up. Vampires and Zombies. Fifty Shades of Romance and Erotica. YA, Self Help, and Sci-Fi.

The process of getting your writing read is tedious. You realize your friends and family are just like you, no time, too distracted. You wonder why you write, what the point is, wish you didn’t want to.

I keep writing, although discouragement is always watching over my shoulder. I have to. It is a part of me, born from my love of reading at a young age.

One thing writing has taught me is how important reading is—that I defeat my own desire to become a writer, that I silence future literary writers when instead of picking up a book, I  pick up my phone instead.

Janet Fitch is one of my favorite authors. She inspired me to write. She just wrote a new book, The Revolution of Marina M. I’ve heard it’s an important work that needs to be heard. It’s time for me to put away the phone and finally sit down and read it.

 

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the permanence of earth

She stands and stares out the window

at the spot in the woods,

unable to comprehend the permanence of the earth

separating them,

or how here can change to gone

somewhere between breakfast and lunch without her knowing.

She churns it over in her mind like a spade turns dirt,

but she is only ten and we are middle-aged

and have grown accustomed to the short life cycle of pets.

But I loved her, she says

with the tenacity of a child

 

refusing to let go

of a lost balloon.

 

I console her, stroke her hair

and tell her the story of a dog I once loved.

 

Next time will be easier.

Death will no longer be so grossly unfamiliar,

so incomprehensible.

I know this

and mourn the loss of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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thanks for making Objects of Pleasure #1

You can still download “Objects of Pleasure” free on Amazon for a couple more days. Thanks for making it number one in its category!  Please leave a review if you like it! I need them!!  click here for the free downloadObjects_of_Pleasure_Cover_for_Kindle

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Objects of Pleasure, now free for a limited time.

Objects_of_Pleasure_Cover_for_Kindle

 

I published my story, Object of Pleasure, and it’s free for a limited time on Amazon. If you like it, could you please leave a review? Thanks!

click here

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