Children are at threat in many ways today – and improper use of technology is one major culprit.
A Homeland Security agent recently told the story of a twelve year-old girl, who was persuaded to send a “bathroom selfie,” intended to be private, to her “boyfriend.” The boy immediately shared the photo with his uncle, and within an hour the picture was on a web site in Russia (one of the world’s child porn capitals) and is now on the internet forever.
Young boys today are regularly trading inappropriate pictures in the same way they once traded baseball cards. Some of these cases have even escalated into “sextortion.” Technology-induced, age-inappropriate hyper-sexualization is also breeding an environment of sexual harassment in schools and among youth, in cases where school systems have eagerly pushed technology without adequate warnings and safeguards. Now, schools aren’t sure what to do. Incidences of bullying, mental health struggles, and teen suicide are all on the rise, and it is no coincidence that the suicide rate for girls age 10-14 is rising the fastest. Some of us will never forget the suicide of Amanda Todd and her heartbreaking YouTube story.
Homeland Security also shared stories in which students hadn’t done anything at all improper with a device and were still sucked into dangerous incidents. Predators are skilled at lying, seducing, scheming, blackmailing, and threatening our youth, both on- and offline. They scare and bribe them into doing things that can lead to a host of destructive outcomes their underdeveloped brains (or our fully developed brains) could never imagine. They make threats against childrens’ families to scare them into not telling an adult and threaten to post lies about them to ruin their reputation if they don’t comply with demands, which continue to increase. The stories are horrific, permanent, and endless. Our children are no match for these predators; and any child who is not properly warned and continually engaged and updated about these dangers is safest in an environment without devices. Parents must know that today is not like the era in which they grew up.
Filters and monitoring software are recommended by many law-enforcement experts. Law-enforcement also warns that no filter is foolproof, not even at a child’s school. Accountability software can help deter or even expose problems, and also keep situations from growing worse. The message from both Homeland Security and law-enforcement is: be aware, involved, and vigilant. One agent pointed out that every situation he had discussed had one thing in common — none could have occurred without a device.
It is no mystery why our children are struggling in so many ways. The gatekeepers of our age have systematically abdicated their responsibility, and no longer put the health, welfare, safety, and protection of our children first. We have a duty in this generation to become better stewards and role models.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and prevention can literally be the cure for a great many of our children. To paraphrase Mother Teresa, it’s not that we should be against technology, but rather that we should be for the safest and most responsible use of it. Technology is a resource and tool, like many others we have authority over. How wisely we use it can be measured by the fruit it produces.