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Teenagers, Technology and Parents

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Recently, neurologists and brain experts discovered that the teenage brain is not fully developed. The frontal lobes, critically important for reasoning and using good judgment is behind the rest of the body. A news story just emerged that seemingly validates this fact.

A fourteen middle school girl met a new boyfriend at school. She liked him so much that she decided to text him a photograph. No problem yet, right? Wrong! She stood in front of her full length mirror, snapped a picture of herself on her cell phone in full frontal nudity. Then, she texted it to this boy. No harm as yet, but…

Like most young teenagers, they soon broke up. The boy, also fourteen years old, told a former friend of his ex girlfriend all about the photo. The former friend, evidently someone who is envious and with that teenage spitefulness, texted the picture to everyone she knew at the school with the message that the girl is a “slut.” Needless to say, the photo then spread to everyone at the school.

When school authorities discovered the offending photo and what had happened, the police were called, an official investigation set in motion and three kids were taken from the school in handcuffs. Among these three arrested were the spiteful girl, the ex boyfriend and another young man who cooperated in the spiteful girl’s conspiracy to spread the photo. The girl who posed nude was not charged by the police because she was viewed as the victim.

Ultimately, the case was settled with both police involvement along with the four kids and all of their parents. The charges were then reduced to misdemeanor and the judge required that the three do community service as their punishment. They also had to apologize to the girl,in front of judge, police and parents.

The story does not end there. like a virus that can spread at epidemic speeds, the photo spread far and wide.
When the young lady transferred to another school because she continued to be tormented where she was, despite all the efforts to prevent this, she continued to be tortured as the new school. Ultimately, she returned to the school of origin and managed to adjust and let the whole disaster blow over.

There are a number of factors that this story underlines:

1. Young adolescents are capable using very poor judgment or thinking before they act. The fact that there can be consequences as a result of an action is only part of the problem. The other problem is that they are not yet able to think of what things will look like long after the initial action.

2. Teenage bullying can lead to real harm. Now, with all of the new technology and the ability of kids to quickly communicate with large numbers of peers, its easy to ridicule, malign, and harm others with the simple press of the send button on a cell phone or computer.

3. Parents must be vigilant with children. The young woman described above, was living with her father after her parents separated. A bright and capable student, her grades started to fall and she began having difficulties with her social relationships. This was the background to her impulsively publishing her nude picture. Parents need to be aware of what is happening at school and with their children’s lives.

After this, she returned to living with her mother and that seemed to help her a great deal. Its not that the father was a bad parent but that he was more permissive than the should have been.

4. At times, its important to limit cell phone use as well as time spent on the internet, particularly on the social network sites such as Facebook.

5. Parents, be aware of the phenomenon of “sexting.” Of course, this was such an example.

Cuber bullying is a whole new concept in the long history of bullying.

What are your thoughts, comments and experiences with this type of problem. Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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