A friend of mine recently came over to my house and shared with me some issues he has been having with one of his teenage children. As a parent of two small children, my ears perked up and my blood pressure spiked when he mentioned that his second oldest child–very much a minor–had met someone over the age of 18 on a social networking site.
Although my children are only five and two, I am keenly aware of the dangers that lurk on the internet through chat rooms and social networking sites. My five-year old son is presently content with Noggin and Disney on the internet, but the day will come when he and my daughter want to set-up accounts on social networking sites to stay in touch with their friends.
My friend shared with me screen prints of messages from his child’s social networking site and the saved text messages retrieved from a cell phone. The contact was ongoing and this person knew the other person was a minor.
My friend told me how he retrieved the individual’s phone number from saved text messages on his child’s cell phone and called the person to request a cessation of contact. Much to my friend’s shock and horror, his phone call became the subject of a message on his child’s social networking page, with the young adult mentioning the need to be more careful in future contacts.
This friend solicited my help to serve an injunction against harassment against the person contacting his teenager. Without hesitating, I told my friend I would serve the injunction for him and make sure this individual understood the consequences for violating the terms injunction–arrest and possible imprisonment.
Sunday after Church, when my family finished eating lunch, I kissed my wife and children and headed off for my Chris Hansen moment…to catch a predator.
I reasoned that Sunday would be the perfect day to catch this person at home–playoff football on TV and a day when most people stay home. I was right!
As I pulled in to the neighborhood where this person lives, I saw the individual standing out in front of the residence. Easy prey! I turned on my voice recorder, exited my vehicle and walked toward the house with the injunction in hand.
I must have caught the young adult off guard because the color suddenly left his face and he stood motionless, looking over at his father for relief…none would come.
In my best command voice, I called out the person’s name and gave a prepared speech about the injunction of harassment I was serving, the penalties for violating the injunction and the reason it was being served. The father looked intently at his child as I served the injunction, and the two quickly disappeared inside the home, hopefully for a long chat and probably for a clean change of underwear.
As a parents, what are some of the tools we can use to monitor and control our children’s cell phone and internet activity? What works best for you? Do you have any tips or suggestions for others? Please, do share.