In Eagle Point, Oregon last weekend, a 14-year-old girl died at a party from inhaling helium from a pressurized tank. According to the news report, she was pressured by others at the party to take a turn at wearing the mask and inhaling the gas, after consuming at least 8 alcoholic drinks. Several adults responsible for putting on the party and providing drugs and alcohol have been charged.
This tragedy is a nightmare for the parent of any teenager. Some reading about this may have the false belief that it could never happen to their daughter or son. Others may ask, “What could the parents have done differently to keep this young girl from losing her life?” One thing that could have stopped this unfortunate incident is the parents having knowledge of exactly where their daughter was going that night. According to the news report, the parents believed their 14-year-old was going to a slumber party with friends. Instead, she got into a car headed to an adult hosted party where she eventually lost her life. While we don’t know what she told her parents, they were obviously mislead and may have been too trusting. I agree that we must trust our teens at some point but this girl was only 14 and in my opinion, that age requires more supervision and monitoring.
So how can a parent become more aware of what his or her teens are doing and where exactly they are going? As parents of a 14-year-old girl ourselves, we’ve found the answer through the service of a new company called MY MOBILE WATCHDOG. Thanks to this service, we stay connected through our teenager’s mobile phone, knowing what she and her friends are talking about and what plans they are making. We also know exactly who she is in contact with via calls and texts, what Web sites she visits, and what applications she downloads and uses. The easy-to-use online dashboard gives us full access to control as little or as much as we want, as well as determining how much information we want sent to us through email or to our phones. We can block people from connecting with her and we can block Web sites that we don’t want her to visit. We also have the ability to shut down all of the phone’s capabilities for any time period of time we want. Currently, we have the phone’s capabilities reduced from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to eliminate texting and Internet as a distraction from getting to sleep at night. She is still able to call us during that time if she needs to.
Some parents may object to the use of this service and see it as an invasion of their teenager’s privacy. But the fact remains that kids are exposed to more and more adult natured material and subject matters thanks to the media, entertainment industry, and the lack of supervision of friends. It is every parent’s responsibility to know what their teens are doing, who they are communicating with, and what they are talking about. Our young teenager’s friends are learning and imitating inappropriate behavior from televisions shows such as Jersey shore and from Web sites such as Omegle.com and Chaterbate.com. We know this for a fact because we monitor the conversations our teen daughter has with her friends and what they share. And we monitor this all with our teenager’s knowledge. We don’t use the information to chastise her in any way, we use it to determine which friends’ homes have supervised Internet and television and are safe for going to sleep overs. It is a parents right and responsibility to BE IN THE KNOW and My Mobile Watchdog provides that valuable service to us.
As somewhat of a new service for parents, My Mobile Watchdog works with most cell service providers but does not work with all cell phones. Developers at the company recommend using a DROID platform phone and advise they have plans for expanding to more types of phones in the future. Because it works best with a DROID, we purchased a used one to replace our 14-year-old’s older basic device. She was ecstatic to have the newer touch platform phone in spite of the monitoring that came attached to it. I was excited to learn from the company representative that they have future plans to install a GPS type of capability in the future. This means that parents subscribing to this service may have the capability of knowing exactly where their teen is at any given moment.
What if the parents of that poor 14-year-old Oregon girl knew about the REAL plans that night through conversations they could have monitored between their daughter and her friends? What if that capability could have saved her life? Will my wife and I continue to monitor our teen daughter’s text chats when she’s 16? We'll make the decision when the time comes, but right now she is only 14 and it is our responsibility to keep her safe. This is a time when safety trumps privacy!