Want To Go Private?

Want to Go Private?

by Sarah Darer Littman

“Abby and Luke chat online. They’ve never met. But they are going to. Soon.”

These chilling words summarize the preoccupation kids have with cyber friendships and how easily parental warnings are disregarded when it comes to things like secrets, boyfriends and personal boundaries.

Summary from The Ultimate Wake-Up Call to Parents.  Starting highschool is difficult in the best of times.  For shy, fourteen-year-old Abby, being on the bottom rung of the social ladder is the catalyst for engaging in online chats with a “boy” named Luke.  As she struggles with a failing friendship, an unrequited crush, clueless parents and an annoying little sister, Abby retreats into a cyber friendship with the one person who actually listens to her.  Cares about her.  Accepts her.  And, eventually, loves her.

To see why every parent should read this book on cyber predators check out my review on Want to Go Private?

To get the teen perspective, keep reading.  Dear Daughter spills it all–well, everything but the good parts.

  • Me: What’s wrong?
  • DD: I just finished reading Want to Go Private?
  • Me: You don’t look happy about it.
  • DD: I’m not.
  • Concerned Mom who knows what a difficult book this was to read: Why not?
  • DD: I wanted to keep reading.

For the record, I did too.

  • Me: Do you think every kid should read this book?
  • DD: No!  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Because, to protect other kids from getting hurt like that.  But then no, because it’s not good.
  • Me: How isn’t it good?
  • DD: It’s not appropriate.  It has bad stuff.  It’s helpful and all, but it’s naughty.

When I asked about a certain age limit, DD answered fourteen, “because that’s how old Abby is.”  As a mom I struggle to think this is a good age.  On one hand, fourteen is way too young to read “inappropriate, naughty things.”  Yet on the other hand, fourteen is already too old to help keep some kids safe.

There’s such a fine line with material like this and Ms. Littman tweeted to me that, as hard as it was for me to read, it was equally difficult and disturbing for her to write.  Kudos to her for taking that step.

  • Me: What did you like about the book?
  • DD: It sent a good message.  Watch what you do.  Be careful.  Know who you’re talking to.
  • Me: But Abby thought she knew who she was talking to.
  • DD: She never met him in person.

At which point we got side tracked by discussing the sheer number of “friends” DD has that she’s met for only an hour or two, a day or a week–max.  Ms. Littman, can you write a book about that?  About how even creepy people can be nice and awesome and fun and “safe” for an hour or two, a day or even a week?  I personally don’t think meeting someone in person for a fleeting amount of time qualifies as a good gauge of character.

  • Me: What didn’t you like?
  • DD: I didn’t like that it ended.  I didn’t like how it reminded me of my dad.  Parents don’t realize how much pressure they put on their kids.
  • Me: And what does that have to do with finding a cyber boyfriend?
  • DD: Because when you don’t get any love from your parents or when you feel like you disappoint them, it’s really easy to fall for someone who listens.  That’s all it really is.  You just need someone to listen.
  • Me: Isn’t that what your real friends are for?
  • DD: Well, when they get wrapped up in their boyfriends, they don’t have time for their friends anymore.
  • Me: Have ever felt…
  • DD: Unloved from my parents?  Yeah.  I feel under appreciated sometimes.
  • Me: So, you’re saying this was realistic?
  • DD: Yep.
  • Me: Even though you know better?
  • DD: Yep.

I agree wholeheartedly.  Even though I wanted to shake Abby and scream at her and hug her and…yeah, it was completely realistic.  That’s probably why I wanted to do all those things.

  • Me: What message do you have for parents?
  • DD: You need to be there for your kids.  You need to care about things we care about, not just the things that are important to you.

There you go, parents.  Out of the mouth of babes.  When DD said this, she expounded on how a B in math isn’t as important as the bully who writes rude comments in your notebook.  Or how forgetting to make your bed doesn’t matter when your best friend isn’t talking to you.  Or how trying out for basketball just isn’t your thing.

  • Me: Favorite character?
  • DD: Billy.  I loved Billy.  He’s so sweet.  Such a little sweetheart.  I loved how he stuck by Abby.  If that happened to me, I know my Best Guy Friend would stick by me.
  • Me: Any words of wisdom?
  • DD: I think people should read Want to Go Private? because it could save a lot of kids.  And don’t be afraid to go to your parents.  Really.  That’s the most important thing.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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