My daughter’s text was a vague “hey”. It was strange, almost frightening to me how easily she picked up cellphone vernacular. “Hey” I replied back. I felt relief when I remembered the restrictions I placed on her iPhone: she can contact a few family members and she can only use the external communication features- like FaceTime and iMessage- when there’s wi-fi, which is only available at home or grandma’s house. Basically she has an iPod touch.
The relief ended with her next text, “Who are you?”, which led to her sharing her real name without me asking for it. This behavior was alarming. Yes, she was probably joking around, but I went right into teacher-mom mode:
“Random Numbers = anyone you aren’t 100% sure is on the other side of the phone” / “But you are you”
“How do you know it’s even me? Even if you know it’s someone you know, ask for proof. I could’ve lost my phone and someone is texting all my numbers” / “Good point”
“Seriously if you provide it, someone could use your location or other info and then kill you” (maybe a bit dramatic but she got the point)
The experiences and dangers I faced as a kid are nothing compared to what my own kids will face. That’s why we must talk about everything. Internet usage for kids 13 and under should be closely monitored. For kids 14-17, there should be a consistent check in and reevaluation of your values, your expectations, your rules and regulations, and the dangers that await them on the other side of their screen. The more honest and open we are with our children about the dangers of the internet, the better they will be at facing the challenges that await 21st century (digital) kids.