DEAR ABBY: I'm a 12-year-old girl and I hope you will print this because it's about something important. I have an iPod Touch. My friends and I wanted to text, so I asked my mom if I could download a program to talk to my friends. She said it was OK.
I really like "The Hunger Games," so I went into a "Hunger Games" chat room and started talking with some boys there. The next thing I knew there were three men texting me, asking me questions about sex and asking for pictures. (It started with them asking if I was fat, and when I said no, I was asked to send a picture of me in a bathing suit to prove it.) Then they wanted me to send some without the top. I felt really pressured.
I got so scared I couldn't sleep, so I had to tell my mom. She helped me delete my account and told me it was dangerous, but she always loves me. It was hard for me to tell her because I was scared she was going to be mad.
I want your readers to know this can happen and there are chat room apps for iPods. I'm smart. I get good grades in school, but these guys almost tricked me into doing something I didn't want to do. I still have trouble sleeping because I'm afraid one of them will see me on the street and do something to me. What should I do? -- TERRIFIED FROM TEXTING
DEAR TERRIFIED: I'm glad you took the time to write. You are a very lucky girl. You are fortunate to have a good relationship with your mother and that you could go to her right away when you realized you were in over your head.
Remember, once something is on the Web it's there for good. You are intelligent enough that things didn't progress any further.
Thank you for wanting to warn other young people about your experience. Adults can lecture about the dangers of communicating with strangers on the Internet, but it's easy to tune them out. It's also easy to forget that the same rules apply in the virtual world as apply in the real world. If something makes you uncomfortable, listen to your gut and leave the area.
I hope other young women will learn from what happened to you and recognize how careful they must be in chat rooms because as your experience illustrates, not everyone is who they pretend to be.
Bottom line: If anyone wants to text or chat and things progress in a way that makes you uncomfortable, it's time to carefully consider whether to proceed or not. Immediately show the text or chat to someone (a parent or an older, more knowledgeable friend) and ask for an opinion, Remember, you have the ability to block the person at any time. Do not let anyone -- whether you know him or her or not -- force you to do anything.
DEAR ABBY: I am a healthy, active older man who is in love with a woman my age. Coincidentally, we are in-laws. Her husband and my wife are both deceased. Having known each other for many years, we are very close and have found renewed happiness with each other. We are in love.
Our adult children tell us we are not being rational. Our peers see nothing wrong with it. Do we ignore our children's advice and seek happiness together for the next few years? Please tell me something that makes sense. -- CONFUSED RETIRED ENGINEER
DEAR CONFUSED: You have raised your kids and buried your wife. You deserve to be happy. What makes sense is you and this lady you have known for years being happily together. Your children's attitude is what's irrational.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)