Will Wooton: Why parents must understand technology

By Will Wooton

When I was 13 years old I got my first pager. At the time, I’m sure my parents viewed it as a harmless device that would, if nothing else, enable a form of communication with me when I was out with friends. The reality was far from this as that little pager became a source for hearing about all kinds of illegal activity.

Will Wooton

I don’t recall receiving any actual callback numbers, but day and night I would get paged codes. These codes were a series of numbers our group had worked out ahead of time which represented different information known only to us. Something as harmless as sets of numbers actually represented cross streets, times, what drug and how much. For any school official, parent or police, it was just numerical garbage; for us, that system allowed us to know what drugs were out there at any point in time. This was the early ‘90s with a basic numeric pager. Imagine what a teenager can do now!

Most teens I see have the latest phones available. Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are all ways to connect with your friends. The question is “what types of other things can a teen do on their phones?” How many downloadable applications can a teen use to hide things from their parents? How many parents feel a false sense of control because they believe they can monitor the phone calls or even texts a child can make? Time and time again parents tell me they didn’t realize how much their teen could still do even when their phone has been shut off. With wireless networks everywhere, your teen’s cell phone can do everything a computer can do and sometimes much easier.

When I searched the word “safe,” it resulted in 1,642 applications of which all are designed to protect data and pictures. Special folders are created to hide things from anyone who looks at a phone. Special passwords protect these hidden secret images, videos and files. Teenagers sending highly inappropriate sexual pictures to one another is a very common practice now. Being able to hide the pictures in a separate, safe place helps this continue.

Tablets and iPods have the same abilities to give unsupervised access to the Internet. Just because you have a password on your home’s wireless network, don’t assume your neighbors do. I often hear “I let my child have their phone/iPod and I can’t figure out how they were texting their friends from home.” There are specific apps to allow texting over the Internet in an untraceable way. Just because you can monitor through your phone carrier who they text, don’t assume they haven’t set up free accounts to communicate behind your back. Kids know far more about this than adults do. I have had kids use their parent’s phones to do some of these things — all with permission from mom and dad.

As the age of the Internet took off, we all remember talking about the importance of monitoring kids’ activities. Teenagers still need protection from sexual predators or from leaking sensitive family business to others over the Web. The same is true for cell phones, iPods, eReaders, and tablets. Don’t look at them as advanced technology that you can’t learn everything about. Educate yourself about what you give your child. Understand what they can do and, even more importantly, what they can do when they are inactive.

Wooton is director of Pacific Treatment Services and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink.” PTS is a substance abuse company. Website: www.PacificTreatmentServices.com.

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Posted by Staff on Feb 28 2013. Filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

8 Comments for “Will Wooton: Why parents must understand technology”

  1. Sherri G

    Ive never thought about this. Im as guilty as anyone when it comes to looking into my sons technology. How can you check what they are doing with their phones? Im going to contact my service contract and see what I can do. Thank you Mr Wooton. Again you bring new ideas on how to help raise my boy. Please continue to educate

  2. Kim

    Wow! Thanks for this.Even tho I ave learned a lot about this over the years this is new to me.Amazing…. the great lengths they go to ,to hide their stuff.Scarey.

  3. mom of 3

    So scary! I feel like I can't keep up. One way is I try to do stuff with my son. Even if we're just watching a movie together then I feel calm that he's not doing something that I have to be afraid for him.

  4. mom of 3

    Would it be better to just take it all away (the iphone, ipod, ect.) and just get a regular phone with texting ,ect. blocked? Then what about the computer? YIKES

  5. Poway Mom and Dad

    Another good article for parents! Technology can also be used to a parent’s advantage. We confirmed suspicions that our son was involved in drug use by installing monitoring software on his computer. We could see his online searches on drugs and read his Facebook messages. The program we have is called Spector Pro, but there are others out there. In addition, we now monitor his cell phone location with our carrier; it helps him to be more accountable. Happy to report that our son has almost a year clean and sober after receiving treatment and attending ongoing support groups.

  6. I want to thank Will so much for bringing this issue out into the open and continuing to raise our social consciousness. Like Will, I am also astounded by the advances in technology and how it impacts social interaction. It's so important that parents do their best to understand all the various ways that their child communicates with their peer group. This however, is no easy task, as most of our children know much more about the world of social media, apps, apple products, etc. than we do. Parents need to find ways to educate themselves more all the technological advances, while continuing to be immersed in their chid's life. Open communication with your child becomes increasingly more important. Create safety for them by remaining calm, even if they share with you something that is disturbing. So often as parents, we create the dynamic where our children do not feel safe confiding in us. Validate their experiences and actively listen to what they are trying to share with you. If you come across something, for example, that they have texted (or posted) that is inappropriate, take a deep breath and calmly communicate the boundary that you would like to establish. Nothing positive seems to come from when we are too emotionally reactive. Validate and educate your precious child.

  7. Momwhoknows

    Seems pretty intimidating learning the latest in social media but once you explore the various way your kid is connecting you can have a sense of awareness if he/she is doing anything you need to be aware of. Kids are crafty and the mentality seems to be is everyone is doing it. Problem down the road is no one wants those pictures out there in cyberspace ……will brings up a great point.

  8. Terry Daniels

    Never before in the history of the world have so many people, especially so many children , launched themselves into the public sea. Until just a few short years ago in human history, no generation has ever even imagined the idea or magnitude of this kind of mass, public phenomena. We and our children can easily, instantly, and permanently, become public figures in an almost limitless, open world with exposure and risk most of us, and certainly all our children, cannot begin to fully recon with.

    Don't we witness all too many entertainment celebrities, sports celebrities, politicians, etc. – who we hope will be able to handle such fame and power in their adulthood, have a tremendous challenge in their lives dealing with the powerful forces of public fame and notoriety that constantly prey upon them? Too many become casualties, with broken lives and ruined futures, because they succumbed to the forces of fame, fortune, and public risk.

    But now anyone and everyone can go public – become a public figure. What happens to a 12 or 13 year old who has instantly gone viraly public or is hooked into and known by hundreds of e-social links, picture and video sites, etc.? What effect will it have on them in 3, 5, 10, 20 years? Nobody knows. What a tremendously increased challenge parents have in this day to be watchful and diligent and protective while they try to wean their children into responsible and safe independence upon a huge, exposed public playing field.

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