You might be surprised at what your kids are exposed to every day
It is 11:30 P.M on a Thursday night. Your 13-year-old daughter is asleep. Suddenly she awakes to a ding from her phone. She quickly realizes that one of her best friends just sent a group text to her and two other girls indicating that her friend was thinking of killing herself. You and your husband are asleep in bed, and the house is quiet. Lying there in bed, she panics. Her friend has been acting strangely lately, and although she has never heard her talk about suicide, she is afraid that if something isn’t done, her friend might be dead. So, she quickly texts the other members of the group, and they respond back with the same panic, not sure if they should wake their parents up or just try to handle it on their own. They all decide to send a supportive text to their suicidal friend, and wait for a response.
It is 3:10 PM on a Tuesday. School has just ended. Your 12-year-old son just received an Instagram photo of a female classmate. She is nude. The photo was sent by an older friend of his, who used to date this girl. But they had broken up, and as a way at getting back at her, his friend decided to send a photo of her that she had sent previously upon his request. As the days go by, the photo ends up being sent to 23 other boys throughout the school, and from there, it is impossible to know where it circulates. The girl eventually finds out, and is mortified. An investigation ensues through the school, and it is eventually discovered that your son is one of those who received the photo. However, like everyone else, he didn’t say anything for multiple reasons until confronted.
It is 9:30 AM on a Saturday morning. Your 10-year-old boy is upstairs doing homework. The topic at school was the legislative process in the United States government, and questions were asked about the White House. So, he decides to surf the internet for relevant sites to see if he can get his questions answered quickly. He quickly pulls up a few. He clicks into one. The next thing he knows he is transported into a pornography website, and what follows are tons of additional clips of illicit sexual activity. He immediately knows that he shouldn’t be there. But no one is around and he is curious. So, he closes his door, and proceeds to check out the sites.
It is 8:30 PM on a Tuesday night. Your 14-year-old son is trying to study in his room. But his friends keep texting and sending him all kinds of links, some of them goofy, some of them mean, and some just completely outrageous and inappropriate. He knows you wouldn’t approve of them, but he figures they are harmless. Meanwhile, his homework sits there, untouched. He is barely getting by in Language Arts and Math, and he has little motivation to do the work anyway. He is tired. He decides that there is little chance he is going to get any work done. So, he tweets out a few messages through Kik and gets on his Facebook page. There, he sees a video of a fight that broke out between two girls at school. He laughs.
The vignettes described above are based on events that regularly happen in the lives of our youth today, more often than many parents realize. What makes them unique is they were largely impossible, or at least unlikely, until kids possessed their own mobile devices. What is also clear is that once a child or adolescent has their own mobile device, especially with internet and texting capacity, they suddenly become exposed to many different threats that were either minimized or non-existent before that puts them into uncomfortable, precarious positions. In summarizing these threats, here are a few points to consider:
Youth are increasingly exposed to “drama” and often feel pressed to be counselors and saviors: As anxiety and depression rates continue to rise, one of the clear culprits seems to be that generations growing up never remove themselves from the all of the dissension and uncertainty. What we need to realize is that even when youth are safely at home, those with mobile devices are often constantly barraged with the drama that surrounds them, only a fingertip away from feeling like they are being thrust into the role of a mediator, therapist, and and/or rescuer. This can happen at any time, even in the early morning hours.