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.
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.
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.
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 naïve 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.