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The Wonder and Worst of the World Wide Web






 


Social media stirs up both positive and negative emotions. I still am amazed at having such vast amounts of information instantly at your fingertips. I think back to the full set of encyclopedias my parents purchased so that we could research needed information for school and the annual update that came each year to document changes.



Instant access to vast amounts of information is now at our fingertips. We look up information all the time while watching TV with comments like “What is that actor's name?” “What else have they stared in?” and find instantaneous results on our phones.


 



And then there is the dark side of the web. Once something is out there, it is there forever. Cyberbullying, dependence on “likes” to validate our posts and the worst of all, others trying to scam people out of money.


We were so thrilled that after many years of effort and teaching, Ben had a functional reading and writing level. Not up to his concurrent grade level but the ability to text and email. Again, in an effort to keep Ben safe and not misunderstood we had to put in place the rule that he needed to have his posts checked before he put them on the internet. Most times the corrections were punctuation or capitalization but occasionally there were times where what he wrote changed the whole context of his statement. For example, Ben was invited to volunteer at a celebrity golf outing where many NFL players would be golfing. In his response to commit to volunteer he wrote:


“I am so excited to volunteer and I will bother everybody”


Leaving out the word “not” changed the whole context of the sentence.



 

One area we are always on the lookout for is to be sure that Ben is not being taken advantage of by others. There was a day where Ben seemed super excited about something but also nervous and not wanting to tell us what was going on. He kept telling us we


"would be super surprised"


but he couldn’t tell us yet.



Being sensitive to Ben’s emotions, I knew there was something not quite right about

how he was feeling about this surprise. We had a talk and I encouraged Ben that he could tell me anything and that he wouldn’t be in trouble. It turns out that “Bill Gates” had reached out to Ben through Facebook messenger to tell Ben he was giving him 500 million dollars and all Ben had to do was send him $500 to pay for the truck to drop off the money at our house. Bill had even sent him a picture of his company badge at Microsoft to show that it was really him.




I had so many mixed emotions at the same time. Anger that anyone would try to take such advantage of someone else. Sadness that Ben was carrying this enormous burden of a secret that he knew was not quite right but really hoped that he could make such a wonderful thing happen for his family. When he showed me the direct message string, he told "Bill" that he


"wanted to check with his parents"


but "Bill" emphatically told him he had to keep it a secret and kept promising that it was true.


I also felt the familiar fear that Ben was not safe from those who would seek to harm him in so many ways and stunned to think that he did not understand how much money 500 million dollars was and there was no way anyone would do that for anyone. We reported it to Facebook and don’t know how it was resolved on their end but we keep our guard up around Ben and encourage him to never keep secrets from us. Anyone who asks him to do that is not out for his best interest.


 

Love you more,

Mom




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