Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Letters to the Editor

September 22, 2013

Parents should monitor online activity

— — I am noticing a trend that I find very disturbing. It involves the Internet and the lack of supervision by parents. I am the Juvenile Drug Court probation officer for McDowell County and feel the need to express my concerns, and hope that this message gets out to all the parents in Southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia.

A juvenile will not be accepted in our program unless they provide me with their log-in information for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I monitor their online activity daily, and frankly I am very disappointed with what I see. I have not completed a survey, but I feel confident in saying that a huge percentage of parents do not monitor their kid’s activities on the Internet.

When you first have a child, you always make sure he/she is sleeping on their back. When they begin to crawl, you place pillows all over the house to protect them. You even put up baby gates in every doorway of the house. The very second they start to cough or run a slight fever, you rush them to the doctor. A few short years later they are old enough (debatable) to have an iPod or iPhone and then “boom,” you quit being a parent! You may think that, “Oh I have them on my friend’s list, I see what they are doing.”  Really? Who are they talking to on their private conversations? Have they “hidden” you from certain status updates? Can you really see all of their friend’s list? To think that you can effectively monitor your children’s online activity by simply adding them as a friend is foolish.

I am 34 and when I was growing up, the only way we communicated was through silly little love notes or the old-fashioned telephone conversation. It was pretty easy to hide those notes from our parents, but kids are too lazy today to pick up a pencil and express themselves. Everything they do is either through a text message or by using a social networking site. Parents need to take advantage of this and snoop around often. Most kids won’t delete their activity for some reason. Once you start being a parent and actually snooping around using their user name and password, they may begin to delete some things.  That’s when you get creative. Apple has an app that allows the parent to get all messages on their phone that their kids are getting. You can even set your child’s phone to turn off at a certain time. 

Here is a novel ideal, don’t give your kids a phone where they can text or take photographs. Keep a tablet or laptop in your living room, and don’t allow them to sneak off in their bedroom with it. I got my first cell phone when I was a freshman in college, and I made it through elementary, middle and high school just fine.

It’s time for us as a society to simplify our lives a little. Technology is great, but it is also scary. I spend at least 10 to 15 hours a week monitoring Facebook, Twitter and a few other sites. If parents would do that for me, not only would I be able to get more work done, but they would be able to put a stop to issues before they get out of hand.

There are many grandparents and aunts and uncles who are raising kids today. I often hear from them that they have never had a computer and wouldn’t even know how to turn one on. I’m sorry, but that’s no excuse. Find someone who can teach you or find someone who can do the monitoring themselves. I hate to say this, but those kids being raised by grandparents and aunts and uncles probably need the supervision the most. 

I don’t have all the answers, but I do feel if these simple steps are taken, you as a parent will gain more control over your child’s life. Kids want structure. They won’t tell you that, but kids do better when they have structure in their lives. It is your duty as a parent to make that happen. The gift of a child is the most precious of all gifts. Being a parent is the most stressful job of all, but it is also the most fulfilling.  Please take an interest in your kids, but most of all, you are the parent, not their best friend. Give them structure and they will give you respect.

Stephen “Grat” Slade

Juvenile Drug Court probation officer

McDowell County

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