Consumer, Family Safety

Back to School: Do You Know ‘Who’ Is In Your Child’s Backpack?

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By on Aug 15, 2013

It’s that time of year again. You head out to the store to buy a truckload of number two pencils and color-coded binders along with a flood of other dazed parents who can’t believe school is back in session.

So you pretty much know what is in your child’s backpack but do you know who is in their backpack as they head out the door and into a new year?

That’s right. Take a closer peek. That cell phone, iPod, or even cheap Walgreens’ throwaway phone may have people connecting with your child (via text or social networks) that you don’t quite remember seeing on the school supply list. (Yes, you can rig an iPod for texting and don’t have to have texting ability on a phone to download an app like Kik Messenger that enables texting).

Let’s take a look.

There’s passive-aggressive Piper. Piper likes to incessantly send texts that pressure your son into complimenting her. She wishes she “were as pretty as Samantha.” She wishes “curly hair was in for once.” When your son doesn’t reply quickly enough (because he doesn’t have a clue), she rails back with a slew of curse words and throws in a few vague “what’s the point of life” threats. You check earlier texts and find that this crazy dialogue has been going on all summer. (Great.)

Then there’s Jason the Jock. He enjoys cracking “lighthearted” jokes about your son getting cut from soccer for the second year in a row. Even though Jason has been a childhood friend, he’s gone from a sweet kid who played Legos at your kitchen table, into a highly competitive, insecure young man who can only feel taller if he hammers down the people around him. (You feel like calling his mother. Don’t. That’s no longer an option. It’s time to teach your child how to choose friends.)

boy_backpack

Scroll down and find Sexting Sarah. That’s right. It’s your son’s forever crush and photos of the giggly-girl-turned-Goth you never imagined you’d find on your 13 year-old’s phone. (‘Oh my. Where’s the delete-from-my-memory-forever button?’ you may ask yourself.)

Then there’s every mom’s favorite text discovery, Bully Bo. He’s the one who texts your son repeated warnings that he better not show his zit-painted face in the hallway this year if he wants to live to see Christmas. (Ahhh. Niiiice.)

Just when you begin to feel your hair follicles turning from black to gray, you find a text from Sneaky Zeke. He’s the kid asking your son to “cover for him” on Saturday if his mom calls because he and a few other kids are going to camp out at Crow’s Peak and drink warm beer. (‘Oh great,’ you may be thinking. ‘The pastor’s son duped me.’ Join the club.)

~~~~~~~

Okay. That’s enough. We are done peeking (for today) into your kid’s backpack and prepping you for the year ahead. We promise.

While it’s highly unlikely you will find all of these texts at once we do want to be realistic parent. Chances are you will find at least one or two of these very real people communicating with your kids via technology at some point in their tween-teen years.

What will you do? How will your conversations begin?

We want to encourage you to breathe. Read this blog often. Trust yourself. You’ve got what it takes to be bigger and wiser than the voices streaming into your child’s life via their gadgets.

Technology may appear the more powerful opponent. But remember—the relationship you’ve formed with your child over these many years will prove to be stronger and more influential in the long run if you resolve to stay plugged into your kids’ life in a very real and relevant way.

So here’s to you parent and hoping this new school year finds you smarter, more informed, and more confident in your efforts to keep your kids safe in life—and online.

 

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @SafeEyes. (Disclosures).

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