This week I took the Amtrak train up to New England. When I ride the train, I like to grab a table in the cafe car because I get a table I can spread out and work on. This is also the car where the train conductors sit when they’re not collecting tickets, and where they have the unaccompanied minors sit.
There was a lovely gal at one of the tables who was actually an unaccompanied minor (it wasn’t immediately obvious she was a minor). Across from her sat a middle-aged man and what I assume was his 10 year old (or so) son. At some point during the ride, the man struck up a conversation with the girl. And then through the course of the ride complemented her on how much older she seemed than she actually was, and asked lots of questions that revealed that her family had money, the town where she lived, where they vacationed, and where she was going that summer. Before long she was sitting at the table with this man and his son, chatting like they were traveling together.
Near the end of her ride, he again talked about how much older she seemed than 14, took her picture with his son, and got her email so he could send her a copy.
And my skin crawled. I mentioned to the conductor who was now in charge of her how concerned I was (there had been 3 crew changes through the course of the ride, so no one had seen the whole thing) and he had had the same thoughts. She was getting off to meet her mom at the same stop I was getting off, and as we waited by the doors for the train to stop, both the conductor and I cautioned this gal about how much personal information she should be giving away to strangers.
Sure, this guy could have just been friendly. But what if he wasn’t? In my opinion, if he did mean well, he was completely irresponsible for leading that young girl into giving away so much personal information. And if he didn’t mean well, he now has plenty of information to abduct that young lady. And he knows her parents can afford to pay to get her back. Scary stuff.
And it’s a real problem in our society today. One of the big issues online, as well as offline as in this case, is how much personal information young kids freely share with strangers. It’s putting our kids at risk. They must be taught the risks of giving away so much information. They need to know what it’s not appropriate to share.
Even as an adult who travels on my own a good deal, I have to be careful how much I share. Whenever a man I happen to be having a conversation with asks where I’m staying, I’m never specific. You can’t be too careful today.
Parents, please take some time to sit your kids down and help them understand what they SHOULDN’T be sharing without checking with you first. Information such as:
- Their address
- The town where they live
- Where they go to school
- How to contact them
- Where they will be, and when they will be there
I sincerely hope this young lady learned something this week, and doesn’t decide to blow off the cautions of two concerned adults. Make sure your children are never in the same situation. Talk to them about keeping personal information to themselves. Let’s keep our kids safe.