Why You Should Check Your Kids Emails, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
I am a VERY nosy, email checking, Facebook following kind of mom. That doesn’t mean my kids don’t get in trouble. They do. But? I feel like if I stay a step ahead of them, I can help them, help themselves, stay out of trouble.
Let’s be clear teenagers find trouble. It’s their job. They are experimenting, learning news things and finding out what is right and wrong by trial and error. It is MY job to constantly point them in the right direction and that is tricky in this crazy world of internet. So? I spy. Though, it isn’t really spying since both of my children are FULLY aware that I check every bit of their technology. It’s more like lurking. If they want to keep it, I get to check it. PERIOD.
Aside from the discussions we have had about sex, drugs, alcohol, internet dangers and privacy issues, I’ve talked with my boys at length about sexting. On the off chance that you haven’t heard of it, sexting is the texting of ones privates. (It also applies to email.) I was very clear about the dangers of sexting and about how wrong and violating it was. I felt quite confident that none of my children would ever send their own private parts via text and as far as I know they haven’t.
What never occurred to me, was to discuss what to do if something was sent to THEM. About a month ago I was sitting at my computer when I noticed that one of my children had left their email open. I glanced down and saw an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Yeah, that one is gonna get a lurk.
The email I opened was a shocking photo of a girl with nothing covering her upper regions. The photo was not a still shot from a magazine, but an actual teenage girl. I was both horrified and petrified.
I checked to see if my son had opened the email. He had. Fortunately he was smart enough not to have forwarded the email to anyone. However, as I would find out, that doesn’t mean he isn’t at fault.
I quickly hit the internet and searched the topic. I wanted to know two things, what are the consequences and what do I do. The results of the search were more frightening than I could have imagined.
In Pennsylvania, three girls who sent nude photos and the three boys who received them were arrested. They were all charged with child pornography.
A 16 year old boy in Rochester, NY is facing up to seven years in jail for forwarding a nude photo his girlfriend sent to him to his buddies. THE CHARGE IS CHILD PORNOGRAPHY. THE PUNISHMENT IS JAIL.
I sat my sons down that evening and had the same talk as before adding the dangers of even receiving an email or text to our discussion. I then had a VERY SERIOUS conversation about going to jail as a young man. About losing out on any chance of playing sports in college, perhaps even going to college as most aren’t so willing to accept kids with a record of child pornography. I spewed EVERY possible negative outcome at them that I could come up with and based on the white complexion on their faces, I doubt this will ever be a topic in my house again. Famous last words, I know.
It has taken me quite a while to write this post. I was petrified that if I wrote about my experience the police would show up on my door and whisk my son off to jail for doing nothing more than receiving something inappropriate. In the end, I just couldn’t shake the need to share with all of you my experience and remind you to TALK TALK TALK to your kids about this subject. Explain that they need to come to you if they receive ANYTHING that seems inappropriate. Drill home the dangers of sending photos of themselves as well as what others will do with those photos. This needs to be discussed in EVERY home just as you would, sex, drugs and alcohol. Please don’t think it can’t happen to you or that your daughter would never do it, let me assure you that you would be incredibly surprised by those that are exposing themselves.
Reading your children’s emails, following them on Facebook and checking their texts takes the same kind of courage necessary to look that bitchy room mom in the face and tell her what you think of her and her fabulous Paper Flower Making Party. I know it’s hard, trust me, most of the parents I know, don’t do it.
Checking in means you aren’t willing to look the other way. It means you aren’t taking the easy road with your children. You are watching and you will punish. DO NOT underestimate how important tracking your children is these days and PLEASE don’t bore me with the, “We made it without all this supervision,” comment. Yes, we did. We also didn’t have cell phones, computers, Facebook, email and two parents working.
Don’t forget to swing by the WhateverNation BlogFrog community and recommend books that teens love to read. Because? I can’t stand one more book sitting unread on my shelf. NOT. ONE. MORE.