LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - For many people, technology is streamlining their lives and helping them juggle a lot more than in times past. For parents, technology can be a help but also a hindrance to keeping their child safe. Melinda Cole, is a mother of three 20-somethings now enrolled in three different Texas universities. She said raising her first born daughter and twins—boy and girl—as teens in the mid-2000s was not different because social media was in its infancy stages.
“They didn't have to deal with Facebook, because it wasn't around. They didn't have to deal with Snapchat..Twitter or all that,” explained Cole about how she kept tabs on her three teenagers. “I think the most important thing for parents to do is to teach kids how to be responsible in using technology. Not to be trusting.”
Law enforcement and child safety advocates also say if you're not keeping an eye on your tech-savvy kids or using software that monitors and/or tracks their usage, you should be. Children can accidentally access websites and gaming sites that glorify adult behavior, like drugs and alcohol use. This exposure could spark an interest that could turn dangerous.
Phyllis Grandgeorge, Executive Director of Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas stated, “95% of the individuals that seek out treatment have started at a very young age. Some as young as 11.”
Grandgeorge said a parent should not just brush off their teen's behavior. She is a big proponent of parents being pervasive because it could save a child from a life of drug or alcohol addiction.
“That's just being a teenager. Let's just leave them alone. Not be involved. Not ask any questions. And that's the critical time parents need to be involved.”
For Sabine County Sheriff Thomas Maddox, teenagers who are underage and living with their parent or legal guardian should be protected from predators who capitalize on access to minors through technology. Maddox empowers parents and explains to minors that parents should be able to check their cell phones, laptops or tablets. “It's not invasion of your privacy,” Maddox said. “There are all sorts of predators that are poised and ready to exploit your children.”
Cole said she began building trust with each her kids when they were young. And she cultivated that trust through their young adulthood. And when it comes to the parenting challenge of being your child's “friend,” Cole cancels that idea.
“We as parents are not friends. As some point we can be.”