Youth Culture Window
Jonathan's new workbook, Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone? releases this week.
“I only wish I would have learned about some of some of these social media precautions a year ago, it would have saved us a lot of pain in our house.”
A mom told me this, wiping a tear from her cheek, after one of my parenting workshops just a few weeks ago. She thanked me for my presentation about youth culture and trends, and then told me a story about her daughter’s experience with the app for the popular social network Instagram.
Instagram isn’t to blame here--it's just one of the most popular photo-sharing sites that kids frequent today (with 100 million active users). It’s actually hard to point fingers. Blame it on the rapid growth of technology, if you will, and the extremely difficult chore parents are experiencing trying to keep up with it all and teaching their kids discernment.
I, much like you, have heard the horror stories in the news, tales of young girls meeting predators through social media. But it’s bizarre when you personally witness those stories happening to good parents and good kids. The fact is, too many good parents haven’t had enough conversations about social media, phones, and responsibility in general. 54 percent of parents, in fact, have not had these conversations with their kids.
Parents like this mom.
I Didn’t Even Know She Had It
“It started with my daughter’s Instagram account.” This mother told me. “I didn’t even know she had one. Like you said,” she commented, referring to my workshop, “I should have had access to her passwords. I didn’t”
She continued. “So she met a guy in Wisconsin, a teenager at some high school out there. I didn’t even know she could meet people she didn’t know on Instagram or I would have told her not to start talking with strangers.”
“That’s a good boundary to have.” I suggested.
“Yeah, we know that… now.” Her eyes teared up. “Her relationship with this boy went from commenting on pictures, to chatting, to texting.”
“She gave her phone number to this guy?” I asked.
“Yes. I had no idea, of course.” She clarified. “So they started texting at night. And that’s when he started asking her to do things.”
This mom stumbled over her words. I didn’t say anything, letting her have a moment. She pulled a tissue from her purse and wiped her eyes. “He sent her a picture of his genitals and asked her to send him pictures of her body. She refused. I was proud of her for that. But he kept pressing.”
“So how did you discover all this?” I asked.
“I happened to go in her room one night and check on her. She had fallen asleep with her phone next to her. I checked her phone, saw the texting conversation and flipped out!”
“After the big blow up, my husband called the guy and told him if he contacted her again he’d drive to Wisconsin and… well…”
“Good for him,” I interrupted.
“Well, that’s not the end of the story.” She interjected. “We decided to call the police… you know… because of the picture. An officer who deals with this stuff all the time looked up this kid, and, come to find out, there is no kid in Wisconsin by that name at that high school. This officer tells us that from the picture, it probably wasn’t even a kid. Apparently kids are stupid and send pictures of their whole bodies. Pedophiles, however, commonly just send pictures of their… well… you know. That way the police can’t connect it with their face.”
She continued. “Scary thing is, this guy might not even be in Wisconsin. He could be here but with this Wisconsin phone. The cops say this guy probably has a bunch of these phones, because this one hasn’t been on since we’ve reported it. So now the police have my daughter’s iTouch and they are waiting a few months, then they’re gonna start texting him again, posing like my daughter and see if they can draw this guy out!”
“I hope they do,” I offered.
“Me too!” She said enthusiastically! “Anyway… it all started because she thought it would be fun to talk with this ‘cute guy’ she met on Instagram.” She held back more tears. “I just wish I would have known, because I could have warned her about all this!”
The Swiss Army Knife of Technology
Do you know what apps your kids have on their phone?
Do you know what social media they use?
Have you had multiple conversations with them about being responsible on social media, not talking with strangers, turning off location services, etc.? Or are you part of the 54 percent?
Have you enabled parental controls on your younger kids’ phones or iTouch?
The majority of today’s teenagers own phones with access to the Internet. This means they have access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, iTunes, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix… you name it… all in their front pocket. A huge number of 8-12 year olds have iTouch devices… which also have access to everything listed above.
I’m amazed at how many parents just hand their kids this Swiss-army-knife of technology with little or no guidance, only to regret it later. It’s only a matter of time before many of these parents are doing triage.
That’s when I hear those words I’ve heard so many times. “I just want to smash my kid’s phone!”
Do you really need to smash their phone… or do you need to start having some conversations about it?
Jonathan is the author of the brand new book, Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone? Jonathan and Doug Fields teamed up together to provide a resource helping parents set up realistic boundaries and teaching their kids lasting values that shape their decisions. Should I Just Smash My Kid’s Phone? includes a sample phone contract, a social media discussion guide, and small group questions for parents to discuss together.
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