I recently discovered that the average kid today receives his first smartphone with Internet access by age 9 or 10. Frankly, I found this little bit of information to be appalling. Pathetic. Inexcusable. Dangerous. Alarming. Disturbing.
It’s no wonder we’ve churned out an entire generation of social media-addicted youngsters who can’t stop Facebooking, Instagramming, Snapchatting or tweeting for long enough to look up and have a one minute face-to-face interaction or conversation with another human being. My God. And if you took the time to read my last column, then you’re also aware that this is the same generation of kids who discover pornography on their own by age 11. Also, as I noted, they sometimes wind up being completely exposed to progressive ideas and indoctrinated by the LGBT agenda, to the point that little boys are dressing up in skirts, eyeliner, lipstick and high heels all because some famous child drag queen or YouTube star told them that it was ok to “Just do you.”
And, most of the time, parents are utterly oblivious to the fact that their kids are being influenced by these social media personalities or websites. Yes, the same parents who bought the phones in the first place didn’t even stop to consider the potential ramifications of opening up the unrestricted, unfiltered and unmonitored world of the Internet to a naive child. Brilliant. Even worse, some parents are then complicit in the insane wants and desires of the child.
Is it really any surprise, then, when we see other reports — like this recent one from The New York Times — which cites an increasing number of teenagers engaging in the so-called “sexting” phenomenon? The study looked at 500 social media accounts operated by girls ages 12-18 and, as you might imagine, found some disturbing trends. The most notable was that teenage boys tend to place enormous amounts of pressure on girls to “sext” (or text) nude or otherwise explicit images of themselves. It also found that when the girls didn’t comply, the boys tended to become angry and lash out. (Gee, imagine that.)
The majority [of the girls] described facing intense pressure that often began with promises of affection and discretion in exchange for ‘nudes,’ before accelerating to ‘persistent requests, anger displays, harassment and threats.”
Of course, this “sexting” phenomenon is nothing new. It’s been around almost as long as modern texting and the term was first used as far back as 2005 in a Sunday Telegraph Magazine article.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m 31. The worst thing my parents had to monitor back in my day was who my siblings and I were chatting with on the A.I.M. Buddy List, which — by the way — was only accessible on the family computer where mom and dad could watch our every move, review browser history and whatever else they wanted to. We didn’t have smartphones. We weren’t texting our friends from the privacy of our rooms. There was no Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook. There was only dial-up Internet, the AOL Instant Messenger system and that was it. And the browser was outfitted with Parental Controls, limiting what sites we could access.
So, a few thoughts:
1) Our entertainment culture — music, movies, TV, Internet — is breeding a young generation of men who believe that it’s perfectly acceptable to treat women like worthless and insignificant objects upon which they can indulge their sexual fantasies or fetishes whenever they want. And now we’re seeing this play out in how teenaged boys communicate via social media and in text messages. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to this. We must confront it head-on. We have to raise our boys under basic morals and Judeo-Christian values so that they’ll become gentlemen and learn to respect women, rather than becoming little Harvey Weinsteins or Anthony Weiners. The last thing that our society needs is more of those.
2) If your teenager isn’t mature or responsible enough to handle a smartphone, don’t buy him one. It honestly couldn’t be any more simple. You’re the parent. You have the final authority and the final say in this matter. Odds are that your teenaged son or daughter won’t be footing the bill for that Internet data plan anyway. So, if they aren’t capable of having a smartphone and acting within appropriate boundaries, you can always deny it or delay it. And you probably should.
One of the common arguments I hear from parents on this front is: “But, what if I need to be able to contact my child in the event of an emergency?” Easy. You buy him a standard flip-phone without Internet access. If your teenager is driving and you want to be able to check on him or her, then I can understand the need for a phone. But it doesn’t have to be an iPhone 8 outfitted with an Internet plan, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, iMessage and God knows what else. I didn’t have my first “cell phone” until I was a junior in high school and it looked like this. Not very glamorous. It was good for one thing: making and receiving phone calls. And that was all that I needed.
3) If your teenager defaults and abuses his smartphone privileges by sexting or accessing porn, there should be consequences. The most obvious consequences, of course, would be taking away the device. You’re the parent, so act like it.
4) You don’t have to bend to the parental peer pressure to buy your child a smartphone just because your friends’ kids have them. Every child is different. And if your teenager isn’t mature enough to have one, don’t buy it. This isn’t about how uncool you will look. It isn’t about whether or not he will “fit in” amongst his peers. It’s about his mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
I haven’t really said anything terribly profound here. That’s because the answers that our society needs in this area are simple, basic truths. I’m not even a parent yet myself and I know these truths merely from my own upbringing. Our kids don’t have to be psychologically consumed and morally destroyed by technology.
You have the power and responsibility to ensure their wellbeing in this area.