Technology and Teens: How Parents Are Failing To Keep Them Safe
Sunday night, I was honored to hear my mentor, Sues, from Warriors For Innocence be interviewed by Guru from B.A.C.A. Nation. Guru spoke about grooming and grooming of parents by pedophiles, which I posted about Sunday to coincide with the show.
I had already planned on this post about teens and technology due to some comments I read on another site last week. One of those comments affected a victim I know very deeply, so I knew I had to post something about it to bring more awareness to the dangers of the net.
After Sunday’s show, I decided to tie this piece in with pedophile grooming of parents because although the teens are being groomed by the online predator, the parents are allowing it to happen.
I came across this website the other day (withholding names) in search of Summer curriculum ideas for my home schooled daughter. I browsed around a bit and discovered it is a community where people can learn about child issues from experts and post their own questions and concerns.
In the comments, one man’s remarks made me take notice and check him out. He is Richard Guerry and he runs an organization called Sexting Is Stupid. (His message on his site, particularly the second to last paragraph, is a brilliant one, and I suggest every parent and child advocate read it carefully.)
There was one comment to the post that, although disturbing beyond belief, provided the best example of why parents must monitor their teens and enforce strict cell phone rules. It was by a 16 year old who tried to persuade parents that the article was a lie and there is nothing sinister to sexting, that sending nude photos is just “flirting.”
Well, you be the judge:
It was encouraging that a commenter below her was shocked at this reply, and she had this to say:
I applaud J for such a great comment. I commented, as well:
I was intrigued after this and decided to browse through the internet safety section. That’s when I found this question by a member and my temper once again flared:
Q: My daughter’s heart has been broken by an internet romance. What do I do?I found out about a year ago that my daughter, who is 16 years old now, had been carrying on an internet love interest for about 6 months before i knew anything about it. My husband and I were very concerned, but thought that eventually it would fizzle out. Unfortunatlely, they still have been instant messaging, and communicating through the computer. I know it was wrong not to break it up earlier, but we were hoping not to have to break her heart. They live very far apart, and have never seen each other. But we found out they having been professing their love, and talking about getting married, etc. I also recently discovered from an unclosed computer screen that he (17 years old) had planned to run away to meet her last month, but plans fell through. Last night we told her we wanted her to end it. She hasn’t eaten anything today. And hasn’t talked to us much at all. Do you have any advice or suggestions to help? Thanks
Most of the responders seemed to believe there was no reason to not think this to be a real 17 year old boy, although they did advise close scrutiny by parents and that the parents should demand to meet him. This comment, however, was extremely worrisome to me:
There’s no reason to force your daughter to break up with her ‘internet boyfriend’. That’s exactly the wrong approach to take with an adolescent. For her, the draw is less about having an online relationship and more about rebelling. Open up a dialogue with her to talk about the risks and rewards of dating (on-line and off-line). You can turn this undesirable situation into a productive conversation about dating and sexuality. It’s important that your daughter realizes you’re looking out for her best interests. You mentioned that they have never ‘seen’ each other. Encourage them to converse via webcams and social-networking sites. Internet relationships invite distorted realities; enabling them to trade pictures and use webcams will remove the fantasy element. Bringing the relationship out into the open lowers the likelihood that one of them will do something dangerous, like running away from home to meet the other one. Although extremely difficult, the best thing you can do is to support your daughter.
I’m sure other advocates reading this see exactly what I see, but I will not post that opinion here. I will say, though, that this response is every online predator’s dream! Any parent following this advice is serving their child up on a silver platter.
There was some hope with this answer from an expert member:
This is my own answer to that question:
Prove he really is a 17 year old boy. Honestly, pay attention – VERY close attention – to the news.
This is Grooming 101, dear. Sexual predators do this all the time. This exact scenario is carried out in attempt to keep her hooked, to see how deeply involved she will be (by agreeing to meet him and then willing to try again when his first attempt failed, she has proven to him that you pose no threat to him and she is lonely and easy).
All the time she spends talking to him, also, lets him know her parents have placed no limits and that her parents aren’t monitoring her online activities. You’ve set your daughter up as bait, whether you want to believe that or not.
By allowing this ridiculous “romance” to continue, you send her the clear message that you don’t care if she has a relationship with an unknown stranger on the net. You, also, send him the clear message you don’t care about the safety concerns police warn parents about on a daily basis.
You are the parent. To the point, it is you NOT her who makes the decisions. And if you are allowing her to continue a relationship online with a complete stranger, the result will be on you. She is a teenager. A kid. She needs discipline (self-control, self-respect) and parental responsibility. She seems to, also, need more involvement by the two of you in her life and real life human interaction. Please show some or she will be another statistic on the evening news.
I would strongly advise getting the police involved. They do not take this kind of thing lightly. The very fact that he has told her he tried to run away and had her agree to a meeting is enough for them to do a full investigation into his true identity. Your daughter is in danger. Do something about it before it is too late.
And then this person showed up to make light of my advice:
Involving the police, or asking your daughter if she’s watched the news lately will make her feel alienated and stereotyped, and she will be more likely to rebel, and put herself in a potentially dangerous situation.
I agree with the comment about breaking down the fantasy. Allow them a supervised meeting, or let them speak over a webcam. If she can hear his voice, and see him, she will likely see someone different than she pictured in her head. This will give her a reality check.
Bottom line: No one wants her to run away from home and meet some guy who may or may not be who he says he is. The role of a parent is to teach a child how to be an adult. Using force will not educate her on personal responsibility, or encourage her to think critically about the situation.
If it turns out he is who he says he is, and they hit it off in person, maybe they’ll end up together. Would it really be so terrible if two teenagers met and fell in love over the internet?
(I would love feedback on this one, either in comments or a personal message!)
It is these parents and individuals who left these comments and posted these posts who impress upon us the most that we must continue to educate and press on, even when we are chastised for doing so. The children are all that matter, so I’ll take my lumps when they are dealt me because I know that I have helped that child in some way, whether their parents admit it or not.
The more I hear from parents of teens on subjects like this, the more furious I become. Are today’s parents brain dead? Do they not pay attention to the news, to their children, to their own responsibilities?? What is wrong with these people? The first thing to happen when their child ends up a statistic is to blame the media, peers, computer companies, the internet .. Anyone and anything to keep from admitting they were at least 95% responsible.
Parents, wake up! You needn’t be a worry wort or paranoid to realize the dangers to your children are very real. You needn’t lock your child away and never permit them access to technology. Keeping your kids from being the next headline tragedy is as simple as knowing that no one ever knows who is on the other side of that cute avatar, so you should, therefore, never permit your child to become attached to anyone or share any personal information online.
Would you post your social security number all over a MySpace page with a request to please not steal it? Of course not. Why? Because you know damned well someone is going to steal it! Why, then, do you allow your precious child to post their photos and personal information all over the net? Why would you allow your child to meet a stranger from the net if you would never hand over your social security card to one? Is your child less important than your credit?