13 Reasons is a show on Netflix that has started a conversation that is long overdue about Teenage Cell phone usage. At least, I hope it has. That is the conversation that parents need to be involved in because suicide is a reality. There is a link to cell phone usage, bullying, sexting, etc. and suicide that will continue to grow as long as parents ignore their children’s virtual world.
So, parents, listen up. I’m going to tell you a little story about a young man who entered high school and had his life turned upside down.
It all began last year when I had this ‘great idea’ to let our son spread his wings and find out if a public high school is all it’s cracked up to be.
His first few weeks were a little difficult (he started the third week of school and had to catch up). But, he did, and he enjoyed the social aspect. I will never forget the first day he walked down the street from the bus stop. He was BEAMING from head to toe: “Mom, I had such a GREAT day! I made a ton of new friends, and one of my classes was a BLAST with some of the funniest kids I have ever met.”
It wasn’t long before the newness began to wear off. Getting up at 5 am to be on the bus at 6 took its toll (on my son and me). And then, cyberspace began eating away at the fun he had been having.
Shortly after he started school, he asked a girl to the homecoming dance, and she said ‘yes.’ Hours, later she sent him a message telling him she couldn’t go. When he received her text, he received information that someone started spreading rumors that he was gay.
What came next, took all of us by surprise.
Kids sent text messages to my son with his pictures (found on our social media accounts) that had been edited making him look foolish and with horrible insinuations. Other messages were sent to him personally and on several teen’s social media that included pictures of a student mocking him and making fun of our family. They also made pictures of my husband showing him in jail, and if that wasn’t enough, someone found and attempted to hack my blog.
You might be sitting there saying ‘they’re just pictures and words, those things can’t hurt you.’ Let me tell you; they can. Words are powerful. While I can’t share the details of the words that were used or the full depravity of some of the pictures, I can tell you that photos and words were not the end of it. I found a video of one kid hitting my son while another one videotaped it – AT SCHOOL. Where was the teacher? Where were the adults who were supposed to be keeping the students safe?
It was heart-breaking.
Here he was – the new kid. He just wanted to make friends. He’s always been that kid who could make friends anywhere. Now, he just wanted to hide this from me because he wanted to stay in school and prove to everyone that a homeschooler could do well in school.
After a few weeks, the issues escalated and I received a call from a principal.
“This is Principal _______. I Have your son in my office. His teacher called when a fight was about to break out. He said there have been issues and you can give me more information.”
With that, I told her and the other Principal all of the information they needed. I offered to send them photographs and videos of what had taken place. The Principal declined my offer because “the school has IT people who can find things.” I knew this was a foolish thought and that by the time they had the students in their offices, it would be deleted and was probably hidden on the student’s phones anyway.
I was right.
The school could not find most of the pictures and NOT the video.
So, I sent them everything I had.
I wish I could say it stopped. I wish I could say the year improved. But, I can’t.
Through the remainder of the year, drama remained part of the equation. My son handled it as well as any teenager could. Better than some. I think the story in 13 Reasons should wake parents up. It did me, especially since I sat at a table with a friend and shared what happened. That friend is an amazing person in our community. He is successful and well-liked. His children are leaders and top of their class.
But, my friend told me: “Please don’t let this go by without telling someone. If this was my child, I don’t think they could handle it.”
So, I’m sharing a little about our story. I hesitate to share because I wonder if those kids will read this and the Rampage will begin again.
The sad thing is, I’m sure they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. So many kids and adults now consider roasting a fun way to live life and make friends. It’s a sad way to make yourself feel better about you are as you put down someone else. It’s arrogant and abusive behavior, definitely not something anyone who claims to have a love for others should do.
Don’t get me wrong, poking fun at friends is something we all do. But there is a time and a place. It’s generally with close friends in the appropriate setting.
BullyingBut, online roasting – is bullying.
Adults and teenagers need to apply the adage: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all…..”
13 Steps to Parenting in a Cyberworld
- Be a PARENT and teach your child how to use social media.
- Do your best to teach them how to respond to negativity
- Remember what it’s like to be a teenager. It’s one of the most difficult time in a person’s life.
- Know what your teen is doing on the phone
- Realize that no matter how well you know your teen or how well you get along with them, they will try to hide things that they are afraid will hurt you or that they are ashamed of
- YOUR teen may not be the problem – but you can NOT control what other people show your teenager
- Look at their social media accounts
- Look at their SECRET Social Media Accounts (oh yes, they set up multiple accounts and the secret ones usually have names that you wouldn’t guess would belong to your teenager)
- Read their text messages
- Don’t assume they’re nice (I don’t assume mine is….)
- Know that placing software to block sites on their phone will NOT keep them safe – their friends have phones, and they will let them use it (and show them they will – a 10-year-old showed my 10-year-old a pornography movie…. he held it up in front of his face, and my kid could NOT get the phone out of his face fast enough).
- Don’t think your parenting will save your teen if someone hurts them through social media.
Number 13 – Last but not least, be prepared for the negative impact it will have on your teen’s heart. That’s the next part of our story. It took a twist, my husband, I did not see coming, we did not expect, and we are still praying over and addressing. I’ll share more soon…
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