It’s 10 pm, do you know where your children are? Remember that public service announcement that ran right before the 10 pm news? I had to start asking myself that same question recently. So admittedly my kids are usually in bed by ten. But, let’s take 8 pm. “It’s 8 pm Erin, do you know where your children are?” Okay, girl one and two are brushing their teeth and arguing over whose turn it is to pick out tonight’s story book. My 13 year old boy? On his phone, probably playing Clash of Clans or taking a clip of his sisters brushing their teeth and then he will make a video in which tarantulas drop on their heads while doing that. Or, is he?
It’s 8 pm Erin, do you KNOW where your son is? Because here is the thing, when your kids are on the internet they can be anywhere. I found this out the hard way last week. His phone found its way to my purse – not uncommon, I am the pack mule for the family – toys, food, multiple devices find their way to my purse often. So, I sat and started going through his text messages – sorry, I am the mom, I have the right to spy. Most of them were funny exchanges back and forth between he and his friends. Nothing inappropriate at all. Then, I opened a text chat between him and a girl named Destiny. Hmmm, don’t recognize her at all. Most of the chat was appropriate and then – they exchange pictures – appropriate pictures but, at this point it becomes clear that their relationship came out of the use of an application they mention called Hot or Not.
It’s 8 pm Erin, do you KNOW where your son is? Yes, clearly he has been in an app called Hot or Not. A simple search and that app was mentioned in an article titled “10 apps that will help you get your creep on.” It was with trepidation that I opened the app on his phone. There was a picture of my son, shirtless, using far too much of his real name, with a profile in an application that essentially exists to allow others to objectify you. That screen shot there… that is his “rating.” Ugh! My “momma bear” signals were firing. My “Erin as feminist” signals were firing. I was about to have a total meltdown. I mean, when did my son even get interested in girls? I was totally blindsided. Thank goodness a good friend of mine was online and talked me down off the ledge.
So, at 8 pm that night, dad and I had quite a discussion with our son. The Hot or Not app is gone. His personal info on other things, like Instagram, has been replaced with fake info and names. It never occurred to him that someone like Destiny could be a child predator. Understanding that people lie is still difficult for our autistic son to comprehend. But, we are developing his understanding of internet privacy issues and why it is so important for him to be diligent in this area.
The other big issue here is the underlying message that we, in this culture, are primarily valued for how we look – and what is seen as beautiful is a result of countless pixel pushing in PhotoShop. It’s very difficult to broach the subject of objectification – I don’t want to shame him into thinking that liking girls is bad. However, the insidious message behind an application that solely exists to judge people based on their looks – not something good. And that subject alone will probably be an entire new blog post in the next few weeks.
Suffice to say at this point though…We now have frequent “phone checks” and other measures in place that while make me feel a bit controlling, it’s far better than the alternative.
It’s 10 pm, do you know where your children are?
It’s a lot more difficult to answer that question today than it was back then.