Ever since the Internet came along, there have been horror stories of children being lured away from their homes after developing an online relationship with someone. Whether it was through MySpace, Facebook, SnapChat, or any of the other social media that have popped up over the years, it has certainly been a cause for concern from the very beginning, and has been the main consideration in allowing our kids to freely access social web sites.
Yes, we all agree. There are plenty of dangers for kids on the Internet. But if you think any of this is new, then think again.
Now, I don’t have evidence that parents in the middle ages worried about their young children being lured away to dark castles by knights in shining armor. Nor do I have documentation that Aztec priests were going into the fine homes of Tenochtitlan to convince teens to find their destiny as a human sacrifice.
What I do have in front of me is an entertainment magazine from September 1964 called Movie Life. In it is a lengthy article titled “Police Warning: Tear Up This Beatle Letter” that outlines the dangers of a phony letter that was being sent to teen-age girls in both England and the US.
From the article:
You’ve just received a mysterious envelope in the mail. You open it, naturally curious, and, oh bliss! Your eyes practically pop out. Your brain goes reeling. You can’t believe it. It’s from THEM. It invites you, YOU of all the girls in the world, to meet The Beatles for a date. Or perhaps, since you are so beautiful, such a real fab dream of a dish, perhaps you’d like to audition for a role in the next Beatles movie. Sound too good to be true? It is too good to be true. Much too good. In fact, it is a hoax, deliberately aimed at, deliberately trying to victimize susceptible teen-age girls.
Take the recent case of two Virginia girls… Sporting Beatle haircuts, dressed in tight pants, mannish shirts and ties, talking in British accents, calling each other “Ringo” and “Paul,” and carrying flight bags emblazoned with the legend “Liverpool Or Bust,” the pair ran away from their homes, determined to get over to England any way they could to see their idols. The father of one of the girls was frankly afraid they would make it.
“They are so determined,” he said, “that if they could get anything to float them, they would go to the water’s edge and push off, and take a chance of starving to death to get there. The virus of the Beatles struck them, as it did two or three million other teenagers in this country, and has reduced them to people who do not dwell any longer in our midst. They have ceased to be part of their family, their class or their community.”
This particular father, as it happened, overestimated these girls. They got as far as Philadelphia by hitchhiking and there they were picked up by the police – tired, hungry, out of money, and not too unhappy about being sent back to their families. “I’ll never do it again,” one of them promised the next day.
Police fear that the fake Beatle letters may be more than just someone’s idea of a practical joke. The letter-writing could lead to big, big trouble, indeed – to graft, seduction, kidnapping and vice.
So, please, heed this warning. If you should receive a letter purporting to be from The Beatles – much as you want to believe it – don’t! Tear the letter up. Or, if you have to do something with it, run, don’t walk, to the nearest police station, and ask the first policeman you see to answer it for you.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the old saying goes. Parents of every generation have had to be aware of what their kids were reading, hearing, and writing.
It’s all hitting us now at a much faster pace than 50 years ago. Wouldn’t it be nice to only have to worry about a fake letter from The Beatles in our mailbox, instead of the unrelenting avalanche of spam and pop-up ads and spoof websites that we have to battle on a daily basis?
But there’s no need to panic and lock your teen away in a tower. A little caution, a lot of awareness, and plenty of communication is what it takes to keep your kids safe online.
Social media sites don’t have to be scary, for kids or parents. Before you ever allow your children to be on them, establish some rules about who they can talk to and what topics to discuss. Tell them to use common sense. If they have any questions about an online message or picture, they should immediately come to you for advice.
And if their favorite band invites them on a date, just break it to them gently.