With every new form of technology there is a learning curve. Cell phones are no exception. When they first went on the market, they were seen as a way to call for help if the car broke down, you got stranded, or were going to be late for an appointment. In the last 20 years the affordability of cell phones has made it possible to provide every member in the family with their own phone, and parents are under pressure to provide them for teens and pre-teens so they can be safe or cool.
But phones have become modern day Weapons of Mass Destruction. The ways cell phones have become destructive defies the imagination. Even in Iraq and Afghanistan they are being used to set off IEDs. Websites on texting abuse and cyber bullying are everywhere. Cyber bullying is common among students. The ruthlessness and crudeness of these insulting tasks is very deep and painful. Almost every couple of days we hear of another kid who commits suicide after being ridiculed by his or her “friends” into thinking they are fat, or unpopular, or uncool. Kids do not have the maturity or judgment to know it is NOT the end of their world, or that their “friends” are not “friends” at all. Sending nude pictures of children via a cell phone can result in criminal prosecution and getting labeled for life as a sex offender. That is no joke.
One example of this behavior explained how a concerned parent discovered how desperate her 7th grade daughter was, and removed her from school, without notice and re enrolled her in another school. She then printed the harassing text messages her child had been the victim of, and showed them to the unbelieving parents of the former “friends.” Until then the parents had been clueless of their child’s cyber bullying.
May I recommend that if you are thinking of allowing your child to use a computer or cell phone, that one of the ground rules be that you will on demand and without notice have the right to monitor and download all messages including emails, texts and pictures, whether sent or received by your child. Check out websites that recommend rules for using the internet safely and then discuss them with your children.
You have the duty to keep your child safe and that includes safe from mental torture. And then follow up on these duties regularly. If you don’t, your child may be the victim of a WMD and you will have only yourself to blame.
Don’t rely on the already overburdened School to know what your child is doing. It is is your job to control off campus behavior by your child. Your parenting skills may save a life or prevent the loss of self esteem which is so important to children.
Believe me, it is that important