The safety of our youth is weighing heavily on my mind after learning terrible news about two young girls.
Last week, a 15-year-old girl went missing after reportedly being lured by a stranger she met through Facebook. People are still searching for her.
A local 12-year-old girl was home alone, texting with a 12-year-old boy from her school. He asked her to send him a nude photo of herself. He promised he wouldn’t show anyone; it was just their secret.
The next day the boy showed the photo to another boy, who said, “Forward that to me.”
The photo was forwarded everywhere. Through some tips, the school staff learned about the nude photo that was running rampant among the middle school students, ages 11-14.
Kids were hauled into the principal’s office, including the girl. When asked why she did this, what was she thinking, she said, “We like each other. He said he wouldn’t show anyone.”
I’m so livid I’m bursting at the seams. This is another prime example of the dangers of social media and kids. They DO NOT mix. I’ve lost count of how many 10 year olds have Facebook pages. Why in the world does a child need a Facebook page? Why are they texting? Why are they sending nude photos of themselves on their cell phones?!
More to the point, where are the parents who buy them this stuff and supposedly say they’re monitoring the activity? It’s impossible to monitor kids 24/7. I have two children, and I’m home when they’re home and I can tell you it’s IMPOSSIBLE to monitor everything they do. If we could, then kids wouldn’t fall out of trees, or skin their elbows, or trip over their own two feet. So, when parents hand over these electronic devices it only makes a parent’s/teacher’s/guardian’s job that more difficult.
We complain about the quality of youth, well, who’s to blame for that? Not the youth. The blame slams squarely down on the shoulders of every adult who’s responsible for a child. We give kids electronic devices and then complain that kids are obese and lazy. We give them video games, and we complain that they don’t do well in school. We let them text, and we complain they don’t know how to spell or hold a conversation. We let them have Facebook pages and suddenly they’re friends with strange men.
I’m not saying that none of these problems would exist if we didn’t have social media. Of course laziness, bullying, and sexual harassment/predation have been part of growing up for ages. My point is that these problems are now enhanced and empowered by a simple click of a button. For the same reasons we all use a blogging platform to spread our message to hundreds of people in a mere matter of seconds, kids use social media to rapidly form cliques, plan parties, gang up on someone, sneak out, and God knows what else.
I’m probably the only mother in the US who has not yet bought an Itouch for her 10-year-old daughter, much less let her create her own Facebook page or Facetime a friend. Every one of my daughter’s friends uses at least one of these devices on a regular basis. The most my kids get is the Wii and some video games on my Ipad. I’m caught in the middle of protecting my kids and letting them fit in.
By protecting them, they’re out of the loop. In some ways I’m probably doing them more damage than good. Kids can be cruel, and mine could be targeted for not being “like everyone else.”
That girl who sent the nude photo probably didn’t think about the consequences, but I want to know if she’d have done it without the cell phone. If that boy had come to her house and asked her to strip naked, would she have done it? Or would she have felt the immediacy, the realness of the moment? Or Nichole Cable—without Facebook acting as a veil, would she have met this guy anyway?
Please, if you’re a parent of a child under the age of 16, I beg you to think seriously about letting your child have a Facebook page, text on a cell phone, Facetime with a friend. I think society has made a big mistake in this regard. I don’t agree with the way we’ve let our kids take on the responsibility of watching out for the bad guy when it’s really a parent’s job. We hand them these devices lecturing our children to “use this responsibly,” but peer pressure and hormones have a stronger pull than a parent’s words of caution.
If you don’t believe me, think back to the first time you got drunk, or stoned, or sneaked out of the house. I’m sure your parents trusted you, too.
On a final note, I want to apologize for the multiple notifications you may have received regarding the post I put up last night about Nichole Cable. WP was in the middle of “routine maintenance” and blogged my post several times. Regardless, please visit that post and reblog in an ongoing effort to find Nichole Cable.