Teen’s Eye View
Meghan Phillips is a 19-year-old Gavilan College student who has
been using computers since she was 7. She first started using the
Internet when she was 12 and continues to use it on a day-to-day
basis for work, school and fun.
Phillips uses her computer skills as a graphic designer for the
Sunday Pinnacle and for college when she takes online courses at
Gavilan College.
Teen’s Eye View

Meghan Phillips is a 19-year-old Gavilan College student who has been using computers since she was 7. She first started using the Internet when she was 12 and continues to use it on a day-to-day basis for work, school and fun.

Phillips uses her computer skills as a graphic designer for the Sunday Pinnacle and for college when she takes online courses at Gavilan College.

Phillips offered to answer questions about her experiences with the Internet when she was growing up in the information age and offered some insight into the peer pressure teens experience online. She offers the perspective of someone who was just a kid online not so long ago.

Phillips shared her experiences growing up on line, which included many of the issues discussed in the three-part series the Sunday Pinncale concluded this week on Internet safety, such as meeting strangers on line, cyberbullying and the reasons kids like to keep in touch with computers.

Q: How old were you when you first started using the Internet and how did you learn to use it?

A: I had my first computer when I was 7 or 8… All I did was play games like Clue off of a floppy disk. We didn’t get the Internet until I moved out to California from New York. I must’ve been 12. That’s when I got my first screen name (an online alias used in instant messenger and other online programs.) I don’t remember how I learned to use it. No one taught me how to use it… No one has to teach kids how to use a computer, they just know and I think that’s how it was for me.

Q: When you were a teenager, did you know more about the computer than your parents did?

A: I still know more than my mom about the computer. I helped her put parental controls on her [computer] to prevent my brothers from looking at Websites she didn’t want them to see. Those don’t work, though, because my brothers, who are 14 and 16, have learned how to get around the parental controls. Companies need to develop software that can help parents control older kids, not just kids that are 9 … These “parental controls” are kind of a joke.

Q: How many hours a week did you spend on line when you were in high school and what did you use the Internet for the most (i.e., chatting, e-mail, keeping a blog, etc.)?

A: I used the Internet a lot in high school. I would get on the computer mostly at night. During the day, I would be in school and I would have some sort of extra-curricular activity, so the night was the only time I had. I used it mostly for chatting and e-mail. I would get on line at night and talk to all my friends who I saw all day at school. It was kind of silly, but that’s what we did. It also was easier to talk to people that you would feel uncomfortable talking to in person, like boys.

Q: Did your parents keep track of what you were doing on line either through filtering programs or logging the Websites you visited?

A: For me, no. I was the oldest child and the Internet was a new thing, so I don’t think they felt they needed to. They keep tabs on my brothers now. It’s so easy for my brothers to get into the filth of the Internet because it is everywhere. My parents do the best they can to keep them out, but the “parental controls” are useless.

Q: Were you ever sent e-mails or messages from people you didn’t know on line? Were they ever of a sexual nature and how were they a regular occurrence?

A: When I was younger it happened all the time. I’ve learned how to prevent receiving those messages, but before I didn’t. Sometimes they were of a sexual nature and other times they weren’t. I was never too freaked out by them, though. I’d just block them and close their box. That way the specific screen name couldn’t send me another message. Blocking people is a useful tool for messages like that. It didn’t happen every time I logged on, but it is a pretty frequent occurrence.

Q: When you received messages or e-mails from strangers how did you react to them?

A: It depends on the nature of the message or e-mail. I’ve made some great friends over the Internet. My friend Jesse I met on line years ago and he’s one of my closest friends. The sexual messages are now just a part of going online. That’s not how it should be, but that’s how it is. I’ve become apathetic to those messages since I’ve been exposed to them since I was 14. Delete the e-mail. That’s all I do. I don’t bother reading it and I don’t open e-mails from people I don’t recognize anymore.

Q: When you were in high school or junior high, did you use Websites such as myspace.com, friendster.com or other online network sites? What was the appeal of these sites for you and your friends if you used them?

A: I didn’t start using myspace.com until two years ago. I did have a Live Journal when I was about 15 or 16. That was more of a diary that I could keep private. The appeal of these sites for me is the networking. Myspace has helped me get into touch with people who I may have never seen or talked to again. For instance, just this morning I received a message from a girl who I went to elementary school with in New York. A few months ago my friend from middle school who’s now fighting in Iraq sent me a message … It’s weird how it’s now a whole new world … Kids have learned how to hide behind the computer screen. Behind a computer screen, it’s okay to say things you wouldn’t normally say and act a way you wouldn’t or don’t normally act. There are a lot of scantily clad teenaged girls and a lot of “scene” boys with long hair and eyeliner. The more friends you have or the more picture comments, the more popular you are. It’s like a parallel universe. If you don’t have a Myspace page you’re really behind the times and will soon succumb to the addiction to remain cool in real life.

Q: Were you ever informed about how to avoid risks on line and what activities, such as hacking and downloading music were illegal and what the consequences would be?

A: I was younger when the Napster lawsuit came around so I became aware of it early on. In our house we learned the hard way not to download illegal music. We used to use a program called Kazaa to download music but it sent our computer into serious melt down. We lost everything and had to buy a new computer. Now we use iTunes because we feel the 99 cents is worth it because we can be sure they don’t contain viruses.

Q: When you were in high school or junior high, was cyberbullying ever a problem for you and do you think it is more of a problem for kids today?

A: Cyberbullying was a problem. If someone didn’t like you and got a hold of your screen name they would never leave you alone. You couldn’t block them because you’d look weak, but replying to their comments would just make things worse. I do think it’s a problem for kids today and it doesn’t just stay at home. The bullying gets brought into school. The best way to handle it is not blocking them, but not replying to them either. The old adage, if you ignore them they will go away, works for online bullying.

Q: Where did you most often access the Internet, at home, at a public library or school or at a friend’s house and why?

A: I most often accessed the Internet at home. It was just easier because I had my own computer in my room. I never liked using public computers and I never liked using the family’s computer because after a certain amount of time, even if I was in the middle of a conversation, my mom would make me get off. With my computer in my room, I could use it however long I wanted while watching TV or listening to music.

Q: Do you have any advice for parents on how to keep their kids safe online?

A: The best advice I have for parents is to make their children aware from the beginning that being on the Internet is like being in a city. You shouldn’t talk to strangers. You shouldn’t agree to do anything with anyone you don’t know and it is okay to block them. And by “knowing” someone, I mean you know them in real life. I’m guilty of saying I knew someone, my friend Jesse, even though I never knew them in real life. Sometimes kids aren’t so lucky and kids are really vulnerable and need to be made aware that even though there is a computer screen in front of you it is still dangerous. Since computers and the Internet are now such a big part of life and kids are using computers at very young ages parents need to begin teaching their kids what is appropriate and acceptable and what is not.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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