The Cyber-Vasion

With the rapid influx of communication technology, it is more necessary than ever before for parents to make decisions for their children.

Picture this: Parents need a babysitter for the evening and ask a stranger to watch their child.  “No way,” you scream!  Let us continue: a stranger knocks on your front door and says, “I’m here to sit in your teen’s bedroom and talk to them…alone.”  Not a chance!  But this is happening and parents aren’t even aware of it.

Technology in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. is not the problem itself but rather the doorway.  The problem comes from the misunderstanding of a child’s rights.  Parents are confused about the difference between a child’s right to privacy versus the right to protection.  It is the parent’s responsibility to protect the family from predators.

Technology is great, however, it has caught parents off guard.  It’s one of the only advancements in society that is used more by children than their parents.  When the car was invented, it was the parents who taught the teen how to use this advanced form of transportation.  Not so with new communication technology.  Many parents seem to know less about texting then their children.  If parents do use text messaging, it’s probably because their teen taught them how.

Begin the process of protecting your child in his/her bedroom.  How many tragic stories have we read where teens had explosives or weapons in their bedroom and the parents were completely unaware of the fact?  Columbine for one!  It is unfortunate that a teen can convince his/her parents that a space is off limits, simply because it is indeed “my bedroom.”

Ludicrous!  I would venture to say that there are few, if any, teens or children helping to make the mortgage payments or contributing to any other household expenses.  The point of this statement is the issue of “my room.”  It is not their room!  The bigger issue is parental responsibility.  We have the responsibility to protect our children and teens and they have the right to be protected by us.  That’s the balance of those two issues.

We have already discovered that anyone can anonymously access our teens via various forms of communication technology, such as Facebook.  The problem is significant enough to stipulate, “If you are going to use Facebook, I need your password.” 

“I can’t believe you don’t trust me, Mom!” will certainly be the protest.  Mom’s response, “It’s not about trusting you; it’s all about trusting the world out there.  Technology has made it so that we can no longer lock the door from the invasion of the world and ruthless people.”

How many more tragic stories do we need to hear about Cyber-Bullying, where mean spirited girls are allowed to anonymously gang up on and destroy the reputation of a new girl at school? 

Recently, it wasn’t even other girls who were the culprits; it was a mom posing as a teen. She posted such horrible lies about a girl on her Facebook page that the victim hung herself in her closet.

There was a time when children could return to their homes and go to their bedroom to escape social pressure.  Technology has made it so that there’s no safe place–that is, unless parents decide to monitor the child’s cyber-world.

Checking your child’s text messages allows you to judge the caliber of his/her friends.  Continually monitoring your child’s Facebook account helps to acquaint you with your child’s friends so that you can recognize a potential predator or bully.

For some reason, even reading about doing this seems invasive for some parents.  Some parents don’t even know where to begin to set up boundaries to help their child or teen.  It is important to take even just the first step immediately.

Imagine the parent of the girl who was bullied and lied about by the mother posing as another student.  The girl’s name was Megan and she’s dead.  I’m certain that Megan’s mother now wishes she had decided that the issue of protection was more important than the illusion of privacy.

Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues. 
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