Saturday, March 19, 2016

WARNING: FOR ADULTS ONLY

My brother, Keith, was recently on jury duty. He was truly affected by what he witnessed and felt he wanted to share the story in order to warn other parents about the dangers of not monitoring your child's cell phone and social media. 

“Romance”

Emily and her best friend, Sarah, were inseparable. The two fourteen year olds attended the same middle school, caught up with each other between classes, slept over at each other’s houses and built a strong, thriving friendship. Emily’s mom was a single parent, working late into the evening to provide for the last two of her four children. Three of the four kids lived with their mother in a two-bedroom condo. Vanessa, the older sister worked two jobs to make ends meet and slept on the living room sofa. Emily’s older brother was in high school and had his own life going full of athletic practices and games. Mom’s late hours meant Emily was responsible for getting herself home from the local middle school and fending for herself until well into the evening. As a result, Emily spent a lot of time with Sarah’s family.

One early spring weekend, Emily attended a party with Sarah and her family. The tight knit group mingled through the house as conversations sprung up throughout the evening. As the party was gathering steam, Sarah introduced Emily to Joey, one of Sarah’s favorites to hang with. He was hysterical. He cracked jokes that made the friends giggle. He was kind, engaging, and best of all, old enough to drive. Emily and Joey hit it off and exchanged phone numbers before the party was through.

A few days later, Joey sent Emily a simple, one-word text, “Hi!”

Emily smiled and responded in kind.

Over the next two or three weeks, the text messages went back and forth, increasing in frequency. The texts were light and airy, fun and friendly. After a few weeks, they began talking on the phone. A new relationship was blooming. Joey was charming and kind. He paid attention to her and was oh so considerate. Soon, the texts turned from friendly to loving, with, “I miss u’s” and “I luv u’s” scattered throughout. Occasionally, Joey would drive from his house an hour away just to give Emily rides home from school. Emily had her first boyfriend. She was smitten…head over heels…in love with Joey.

Within a few months, the text messages became sext messages and the physical relationship followed suit. Their routine was the same. Once or twice a week, Joey would make the one-hour drive, pick up Emily from her middle-school, and drive her to her condo. The two would have sex in the living room, and Joey would leave, all before Emily’s sister, Vanessa, would come home to shower and head out to her second job, and well before mom got home. Not one of Emily’s family members had even met Joey or knew he existed.

One afternoon, the same ritual occurred, but Vanessa was released early from work. As her key slid into the deadbolt lock, Emily sent Joey running into the back bedroom to hide in the closet. By the time Vanessa had unlocked the door-knob, Joey was safely hiding and Emily was prepared to greet her sister. As the twenty-something sibling breached the doorway, she immediately noticed something was wrong. The loveseat was significantly displaced and the large sofa cushions were not in their usual neat, tidy position. Emily was visibly nervous. Someone else was in the house.

“Who’s here, Emily!” Vanessa asked.

“No one’s here, just me,” Emily replied anxiously.

Not buying it for a second, her sister pulled out her phone and said, “bring him out or I’m callin’ mom!”

“Ok, ok,” Emily replied, “but he was just using the restroom.”

Emily slowly walked to the back of the condo and beckoned Joey to come out and make himself known.

Joey nervously exited the closet and made his way out to the bedroom hallway. Vanessa’s jaw dropped as she caught sight of Joey, a forty-year old handyman from the next county up the road.
 “I, I was using the bathroom,” he stammered as he continued his fast-paced gate to the front door.
Vanessa was quick-witted and loose-lipped. As he continued his beeline for his car, a series of expletive-laced rhetorical questions flowed from the older sister, all-the-while snapping photos of the perpetrator with her cell phone. As his car sped out of sight, Vanessa called her mother. Less than two hours later, the three ladies were walking through the doors of their local police station.

The rest of that evening involved statements, physical exams, and monitored communications with the perpetrator to get him to incriminate himself.

THE AFTERMATH

Unfortunately, Emily’s story is not fiction. The names were changed certainly, but the story was the one I had to listen to for two days as I performed my civic duty serving as a juror. My re-telling of the story was tame, to say the least. The state had to prove its case in making sure each count of Lewd and Lascivious Battery was entered into evidence. As such, they had to question “Emily” and make sure she clearly described how and where “Joey” touched her and with which body parts. I sat there listening to one of the detectives reading every text message between the two as I stared at the alleged perpetrator, looking for any form of reaction or response of shame or guilt…nothing! I had to take notes as each witness responded to countless questions about how this child had been violated. In a day of trial, I heard more expletives and crude references to body parts than in all of Quentin Tarantino’s films combined. I looked on as an attorney asked a young teenager to estimate the amount of body fluids that were present and the length of time each encounter lasted.

I am now two days removed from the trial and still it remains in the forefront of my mind. I would come home at the end of each day, look at my two daughters and baby son, and tears would well in my eyes just shy of rolling down my cheeks as I think about what happened to someone else’s baby girl.

TAKEAWAYS

I hope this story jolted you. I hope it caught you off guard. Though not a professional writer, I tried to present it from the eyes of the na├»ve victim and flip the switch just as it had been flipped on her…when it was way too late.

Please understand, my desire is not to scare you, but to encourage you to be the parent God has called you to be. If you have a child under the age of 18, and you are not currently monitoring their cell phone activity, please take the bold step of upsetting your child and placing parental controls on the phone so you see every text, communication, website, and app they access, type, send or receive. My children are young and do not yet have cell phones, tablets or computers, but rest assured, I will monitor each device when they get them.

It is not an invasion of privacy! It is not a lack of trust! It is not anything short of loving your child too much to allow anyone access to your child without your knowledge and permission.

When you pull your toddler away from the street in the front yard, they may kick, scream and holler. When you tell your adolescent child you are placing controls and monitors on their device, they may kick, scream and holler. Both situations are identical. They are completely unaware of the inherent dangers you are protecting them from.

Dare to upset your child!

2 Timothy 1:7 says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

Handing your child an un-monitored cell phone is like placing a 3 year old in the middle of a 12 lane superhighway.


If you currently use monitoring software, please share the name of the technology and how they have helped you supervise your child in this technological age.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm having a problem with the monitoring situation in my own home right now. We recently took custody of a 16 year old (who is now 17). She came to us with a cell phone and had very little monitoring of her for most of her life. We were and still are trying to find the balance between making her a true part of the family and making her an enemy from the very beginning. Our younger children don't have cell phones, and I have no problem telling them I'm going to be monitoring them once they do get the phones, but it's hard for us to tell someone who's had so much freedom that she can't have it anymore. We have slowly moved toward this, and except when she's sleeping and in her room, she's with me all the time (we homeschool), but she wasn't homeschooled before coming to our home and she still communicates with her friends from her old school (although we live in a different country). I'm just really unsure where I draw the line... and figuring out what she needs from us at this stage in her life.

Thanks for your post... it's really made me think!!

Constance said...

Thank you for this very important message. I wish I had done more when I had the opportunity. I was fortunate. Both daughters are grown and now will face these fears for their children. I was in education for 22 years. Even so, even with all that I saw around me and the troubled teens I worked with I thought "not my girls": don't be as foolish as I was. It isn't mean" it's love to stop them. I am so sorry I didn't do more.

Anonymous said...

We use Net Nanny. I had to work a bit to get it to cooperate with our online homeschool curriculum, but got it to work. Was worth every penny. We also took internet off our child's cell phone.

Keith said...

I apologize for the delayed response.

To the first comment:

First and foremost, thank you for the courage to reach out and take a young lady into your home. I am sure this subject is just one of many tough areas to navigate.

I do think it is important to choose your battles. It is always easier to draw those lines when you give your children phones. Constantly reiterating that cell phones are a privilege and that monitoring software or unannounced checks by a parent are part of that privilege. If they don't want you going through their phone, then they don't have a phone. Having their phone monitored is a party of living in the house.

As for the teenager you are housing, seeing that kind of tone without an established relationship could be harmful (rules without relationship = rebellion). Dialing back the rules, but putting some in place would be a good step.

Many high school age kids are texting throughout the night, leading to terrible sleep habits. Creating an overnight charging station where EVERYONE in the home charges their phones overnight beginning at a set time would be a healthy step.

You could certainly have her read this story and explain this is just one of a myriad of ways people can get into trouble with technology.

You know her better than I. She is under your care for a reason. Prayer and wisdom are vital. Ask God to show you how she could be taken advantage of or how she might negatively influence others as well.

Given her age, she might benefit from a open honest heart to heart conversation where you simply make her aware of your concerns with cell phones and social media.