THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

by chuck fresh

Back in the day, it was easy to keep an eye on your kids. The furthest they might get from your supervision would likely be around the block or at school. In my small neighborhood, there were other equally as astute adults keeping an eye on your kids and keeping them away from trouble.


Today, your children may be physically safer, but they are mentally connected to the entire outside world via the internet. What’s worse is that a majority of the influences they are exposed to are largely anonymous. Add on a layer of unsupervised silent privacy, and Dad and Mom may have no idea no the evils your children are viewing. I am still trying to figure out who Slenderman is.

Be aware that it is ridiculously easy for your children to connect with kids from all over the world in game chats and on social media, if you allow it. We’re talking different cultures, different political views, different faiths, and potentially other fundamental differences that may not be ethical or even legal in some places. In most cases, conversation with people from other cities, states, and nations is helpful in developing an understanding that there is another world outside of your safe little bubble. But you need to be aware that these outside influences may be out of your control, and in some cases, could be dangerous.

 

Young minds are malleable and easily influenced, so you need to be aware of your child’s online friends, conversations, and mindset. You should know their real names, where they’re from, and what they’re up to. It can be difficult to track the truth, but it’s possible. Your best and most effective means to help avoid a negative influence is to only allow usage of these devices while you are in the same room with them, so you can hear at least one side of the conversation – it’s always better to hear both. Also helpful in mitigating trouble is to restrict the hours in which your children can use these devices. Seize portable wireless devices before bedtime, and unplug your broadband modem at a certain hour each night if you’re concerned.  


Kids know that you’re trying to watch them. But you’re like an enemy spy in a disparaging war. Children believe that you’re doing all you can to stop them from having fun. Kids aren’t smart enough to understand that you’re trying to protect them – and in some cases, the rest of your family. So the dance begins.
 

Way back in ancient history, MySpace was the dominant social network. They imploded soon after some entitled Harvard kid took over the digital wires. Every kid had a Facebook account, even Peter, until his parents caught wind of Facebook and joined themselves, insisting they became Peter’s “friend.” 
 

Peter was now forced to contain his online behavior. Besides, Peter thought it took too much time to actually type posts and review others on Facebook. What made Facebook even lamer for Peter was that his grandmother joined. She now enjoys exercising her fingers while farming photon crops and crushing pixelized candies. Some of Peter’s friends migrated to YouTube, where they can keep up with the very important doings of some dessert called PewDiePie and some Mexican make-up girl called Yuya. If Peter was feeling literal and energetic, he could bitch about anything in 280 characters or less on Twitter. Some of Peter’s other friends swung over to Instagram, where all you have to do is take a perfectly good picture demonstrating what you’re up to, and then destroy it with a photo-degrading filter. Peter liked Instagram because no typing was necessary. Later came TikTok. Now, Peter could record a ridiculous short video featuring just about anything, and Peter’s equally idiotic friends can see what a freak Peter really is. 
 

Up until that point, you could still monitor your children. But now, with apps like Snapchat, kids can post photos of their private parts and send them directly to their perverted friends. Snapchat deletes the photos seconds after they’re viewed so that involved parents, like you, won’t have a clue that Peter sent a picture of his peter to Becky. What Peter may not have realized is that Becky was a bit more clever than Peter thought, and she saved a screenshot of Peter’s peter and shared it on Reddit, a website where a lot of anonymous, angry, sexually frustrated men hang out.
 

There are new social networking applications appearing on the scene every day. The game kids play is to use the newest and hottest one before their parents catch on. Fortunately, most kids just watch. But that may be disturbing, too. There is a whole world of unsupervised influence occurring just under your nose. And if you’re not aware of those influences, you cannot counteract them or correct any potentially dangerous misconceptions. 
 

Children are children until the day they’ve packed their stuff up and left your home for the first time. In my little world, while they’re still home, they’re admitting they are not ready for the real world. So it’s your job to continue fulfilling your parenting duties until they’ve gone. The most important part of your job is providing sound guidance. But it’s difficult to provide guidance when you’ve been shut out. From adolescence forward, a parent’s attempt to communicate with children becomes viewed as “nagging” or “stalking.” 


In today’s world, portable electronic devices allow children of all ages to connect with the outside world a little too easily. Think about it this way. Your kid, with his smartphone connected to your unfiltered cellular or WIFI internet connection, now has access to virtually anything in the entire world. He can learn how to ride a bike, play guitar, roll a joint, shoot heroin, or even the proper way for him to give a blow job. 
 

A smartphone in a child’s hands is today’s equivalent of standing alone, unsupervised, on a street corner in the middle of the night along with a crew of naked, evil, decrepit, and misguided folks. Fortunately, it’s usually not a physical meeting, but it has led to that in certain well-publicized situations. It’s your job, and not Mark Zuckerberg’s, to protect your child from the ills of today’s digital society. Heck, Zuck won't even disallow fake political ads.
 

When necessary, part of your parental operations center may include CIA-like covert surveillance operations. You may need to know what’s really going on in your child’s fragile little mind to furtively obtain the correct information you need to counteract anything that might derail his or her education or life. Back in the day, surveillance was easy. You could steam-open a letter and read it, sealing it perfectly before its recipient knew it was read. But the post office is almost out of business. You could stand outside someone’s room or pick up another telephone receiver and hear entire conversations. But most folks don’t have home phones anymore. Figuring out a password or reviewing computer history was enough information to read confidential emails for a little insight into your child’s mind. Kids today consider email as a quaint little antiquity. Texts are not easily trackable. Once they’re deleted, it’s difficult to un-delete them. Your cell provider keeps all those text messages forever, but good luck getting a subpoena to get your hands on those.
 

Online video calls via Oovoo, Skype, and FaceTime are in real time, so they’re not recorded. You could overhear those at home, but since the entire technology industry is now going mobile, it’s unlikely the kids will make secretive calls at home.


There’s only so much you can do to control your child’s exposure to the outside world. With that said, there are choices you’ll need to make. Should you allow your children to possess or use these communication devices? If you deny them, you risk stifling their technological aptitude, which is now a very relevant skill. If you allow them, you’ve just invited the entire unfiltered world into your living room.
 

Most newer routers allow specific filtering, meaning you have the capability to block certain types of internet traffic. Social networking, video chatting, adult subject matter, sex, drugs, and other terms can be filtered, with a bit of complex tweaking of your router. It’s not always perfect – things tend to sneak through until the servers they’re on are recognized. There is a process called “white-listing,” which means you can theoretically list the sites you’ll allow certain devices to access on your home network. It’s complex, tedious, and will require constant input from you, the network administrator. But that’s the ultimate safe-haven for kids. 
 

It’s important to realize that cellular devices have the option of bypassing your home network, leaving your router settings irrelevant.

 

Fortunately, some cellular providers also offer some type of filtering or limiting software that can be controlled by the person paying the cellular bill. AT&T offers a service called Smart Limits that runs about five dollars a month, and works very well. Verizon offers something similar.


If you’re the type of person who prefers not to apply filters, or if your situation doesn’t call for filtering, there are covert ways to infiltrate just about any technology. And to be an effective parent who can provide useful guidance, you’re going to need as much information as you can gather. Fortunately, there are now several monitoring apps available for both Android and Apple phones. When installed and configured correctly, these apps have the ability to monitor computers and cellular devices and forward most communications, including texts, call logs, social media posts, photos, videos, and web searches from a cellular device. Some of these apps have the ability to block certain applications from running. One has a nifty little feature called “virtual fences.” If you’ve dropped your child off at the mall, this software can be configured to send you an alert if your child has left the mall. It also features GPS tracking, so you’ll at least have an idea if your kid is really where he or she said they’d be.

 

It's important to note that Android devices are easier to limit and monitor than Apple devices. Your child may beg for an iPhone, but opt for an Android if you want to be safer. Trust me.  
 

Be aware that some children are quite clever. If Peter said he went to Bobby’s house, he could leave his phone in Bobby’s mailbox and jet over to Becky’s house, or anywhere else for that matter. A GPS monitoring system will still detect the phone at Bobby’s house. Most children would die without their phones, so this isn’t likely to happen. Until we can legally plant GPS chips in our children, don’t think a GPS location app is the solution to the world’s problems. (Continued below)

Depending on your personal philosophy, you should be able to restrict access or get enough information for a strong insight into your child’s activities using the above methods. But, if you feel you need more, know that most of the commercially available monitoring software will not record telephone conversations. Be aware - that may actually be considered as a felony in some places, otherwise known as wiretapping. A few states do recognize a “vicarious consent” exception, under which a custodial parent may secretly record the conversations of his or her minor child in the interest of protecting the child. Chances are you won’t get in any hot water, unless your kid decides to sue you (it happens more often than you’d think). Check with an attorney or your local authorities before you go down this route. 
 

Alternatively, in our home, we instruct our children that we will be watching via random digital audits. Since we pay the bills, we feel we have a complete right to check our children’s text messages, e-mails, chat logs, phone logs, web history, and social network activities. Children are much less apt to do something wrong or immoral if they think you might be watching to avoid embarrassment, punishment, or a digital curfew. If our kids want to use a digital device, they must agree, in writing, to our rules for a digital audit. Those rules are as follows:

  • You may not delete any text messages or phone logs until we have reviewed them. “Accidental” deletions shall be considered a violation of this policy.

  • You must supply a verifiable name and relationship for every person we find on your text or phone log.

  • You must write every social networking user ID and password you use in a log book located in the kitchen drawer within one hour of changing it. In the event we have found outdated information upon a digital audit, you have violated this policy. “I forgot” is not a valid defense.

  • You must “friend” us or allow us to “follow” you on every social network you subscribe to. You may not ever exclude us from any posts, photos, or any other information.

  • You may not use a private or cloaked browser, and you may not erase any internet history until we have had the opportunity to review it.

Family fascism? You're damn right. I'm protecting my kids. Besides, I pay the bills.

 

Children can delete offending text messages and web history, and most social networking sites offer the option to block certain people from seeing certain photos or posts. You need to make it perfectly clear that you will have the means to audit all of their communications. And if you ever find they’ve deleted something, that’s the equivalent of lying. The penalties should be swift and severe, including the surrendering of all digital devices. 
 

Today’s millennial either can’t spell or are too lazy to type an entire word in texts or internet posts. As a result, you have been demoted to U. The word “am” has been truncated to the letter M. “Are” has been reduced to R. “For” is now a number 4, and “to” or “too” is half that at 2. Zeros are randomly used as the letter O, for whatever reasons I can’t figure out. 
 

Kids also think they’re cool when they pull the proverbial wool over an adult’s eyes. But today, it’s relatively easy to decipher their codes with nothing more than a Google search. Websites including urbandictionary.com and noslang.com can readily translate even the most obscure text acronyms into plain English. There are hundreds of other shortcuts and code words you should be aware of. Here are a few of the more common terms to catch you up.

  • 420 or 4/20 -- marijuana

  • AWK – awkward

  • BTW – by the way

  • CRAY -- crazy 

  • DBA – don’t bother asking

  • DERP -- another name for a weirdo or dork

  • FML – f*ck my life (indicates depression)

  • FOMO -- fear of missing out

  • GNOC – get naked on cam

  • GTG – got to go

  • IDK – I don’t know

  • IRL – in real life

  • KK – okay

  • L8R – later, as in see you later, or tell you later

  • LMAO –laughing my ass off

  • LMFAO –laughing my f-ing ass off

  • LOL – laughing out loud

  • MERKED -- being drunk, high, or passed out

  • MUAH – kiss 

  • NOOB – new person, inexperienced

  • NP – no problem

  • OMG – oh my god

  • POS – parent over shoulder or piece of sh*t

  • PRON -- porn

  • PWN – to “own” something, as in being better 

  • ROTF – rolling on the floor (laughing)

  • SMH – shaking my head

  • STFU – shut the f*ck up

  • SWAG/SWAGGER – being or having something cool or expensive

  • TDTM – talk dirty to me

  • TTYL – talk to you later

  • WTF – what the f*ck

  • YOLO –you only live once

 

And if you’re worried about your babies (or their friends) being involved in drugs, be on the lookout for terms like these:

  • Ecstasy - molly (molecule) , rolls, stacks, moons, caps, X, beans, skittles, candy, E, MDMA, circles

  • Marijuana - trees, green, kush, dro, zona, hydro

  • Ketamine (an anesthetic used in humans and animals) - Special K, Vitamin K, breakfast cereal, K, Ket

  • Coricidin / DXM (cough syrup) - Triple C, CCC, skittles (red pills), tussin, dexing (abusing cough syrup)

  • Crystal Meth - gas, shards, glass, crank, speed, chalk

  • Heroin - antifreeze, dope, brown sugar, horse, tar, train

  • Cocaine - snow, Charlie, dust, lady, snowbird, yahoo

  • Rig - needle used to inject heroin

  • Crunk - to get drunk and high at the same time.

  • Ritalin - pineapple, ritz, kiddie coke, rids

  • Vaping - using a modified e-cigarette

  • Robotripping - using cough syrup

  • Sizzurp - a mixture of Codine syrup, fruit flavored soda, and a Jolly rancher.

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