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Can Teens Be Trusted Online?

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While technological advancements have their benefits, I'm beginning to wonder if it's doing my kids more harm than good.

son texting father concerned

Bruce Sallan: Sexting, texting, e-mail, Twitter, MySpace, Netflix, Facebook, formspring (not a mattress company), "smart" phones, iPads, iPods, laptops, etc. That's the world our kids live in. And it's moving faster every day!

For me, it was a library card and a book, on roller skates, which my friends and I would use to go down the hill where we lived. Oh, we also played a made-up game we called "Mongoose," in which we hit a ping-pong ball back and forth with two books, the object being to do it as long as possible. We had a phone, but its use was limited. TV was only on weekends, and there were just three networks and not much else.

That just ain't the world no more! With the recent spate of texting-related violent incidents, I'm beginning to question what boundaries we parents should consider for our kids, especially our teens, with these social-media devices. My 16-year-old got into a mess of peer trouble with an impolitic Facebook post. It was stupid, but not that big a deal. At my urging, he even publicly apologized (and in a well-written, not too self-deprecating fashion -- I was impressed).

Yet the "controversy" continued and almost threatened his truly terrific relationship with his girlfriend of seven months (a lifetime for sophomores in high school), as every one of their friends got involved and it escalated to silly levels. He's a big boy, confident, and there's been nothing more to it for now, but the whole incident, along with the more tragic stories we've been hearing recently, makes me question our parental responsibility in allowing our kids unlimited access to social media.

I trust my boys. But the older one is 16 -- can any 16-year-old really be trusted? Even my 13-year-old is attached to his cell phone. Giving them cell phones makes my life easier, but is that reason enough? I'm beginning to question all of this and wonder if we should pull back. But heck, what do I know? I'm just a guy.


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