Thursday, December 3, 2009
Shortly after discovering this group, I also discovered a new world on the worldwide web. "Chat Boards" began appearing on line, and for young skaters, they became a place where they could express their unbridled enthusiasm and support for their friends competing across the country. On many boards, the savvy administrators monitored like hawks and took down rude and inappropriate comments, privately admonishing the kids to play fair and not use the boards as a place to trash their competitors or people in their rink.
The next step, partially born from a rash of cyber incidents involving young children, was that parents started "monitoring" the boards to see what was being said and to make sure that their precious children weren't falling victim to people who meant them harm. Of course, on the skating boards, having parents monitor conversations took on a decidedly different twist. The popular boards became a place where parents took on pseudonyms and started their own version of "Cyber Stalking," trying to mimic the language and lingo of the skaters so they would blend in.
Yes, I admit it: I was a "Cyber Stalker" when our skater was young. About the time he started competing at the intermediate level, the boards had taken off and there was a LOT of chat out there. Some people were kind; some talked trash.
It is difficult as a parent to read about your child as he or she is being unjustly (in your opinion) vilified for slips, falls, cheated jumps or any number of other opinions that, in your mind, are reprehensible and unjustified railings against "America's next great skating sensation." It is hard to hold your tongue; it is hard not to assume the persona of your cyber alter-ego and lash back. Actually, it is nearly impossible. Fortunately, some of those same, wonderfully caring site administrators monitor the "Cyber Stalkers", too. If you step over the line, one will quickly send you a PM and let you know that they are watching (as they remove your post). Cyber Stalkers on these boards quickly learn that if they want to spew venom, there are other places to do it. Some have even been lulled into believing that they can trash skaters on these boards without fear of identity or retribution. In today's media transparency, they are naive and don't understand how these places work and how easily they can be identified.