Jeepers Creepers

Creeper Alert! Proceed with Caution                  
Written by Just Add Kids Founder,
Paula Herrmann

My post on Facebook read like this:

“Parents, PULEEEEEZ, take note! A friend posted this on her Facebook page a couple of days ago, and with her permission, I am sharing this “lessons learned” story with you all…
“P, my 4yr old has been extremely tired for the last 10 days …or so…I chalked it up to the fact that he has been sick & his body has just needed more sleep then normal or maybe he is growing….WRONG!! Last night kids tucked into bed…devices turned off…no more T.V. & lights out by 10pm…I then went to bed myself…I don’t know why but at 1:30am I awoke…maybe I heard a noise or maybe it was finally a Mother’s intuition kicking in…first stop…the boy’s room!! & sure enough…P had his iPad & was watching Netflix!!”. Read more… Are you kidding me!! No wonder he has been SO tired!! I don’t how long this has been his routine…but I can tell you…all devices are now in my room when lights go out!!

This is one mom’s story, and probably countless others that don’t have a clue.

A few months back,  as many of you know, I was on a quest to get to know my 11 year old daughter’s iPhone a bit better. Things had run amuck! For the most part, I thought and still think she was safe. You can read more here:
Today, that same daughter, Miss 11 year old, broke a rule. She brought her cell phone to school. I called the school, explained a bit, and asked that she call me, the assistant administrator confiscated her phone, and we are going to continue the talk that we briefly had this morning about a presentation I went to ,while I was putting her hair up. (she heard what I was saying, she was a captive audience).

Last night I attended a presentation,”The Dark Side of Digital Technology”, presented by special agent, Eric Szatkowski. I had heard about his presentations in the past (vaguely) and thanks to my friend who had attended this very same presentation at Prairie School a few months back, I had a little more knowledge about the dangers that lurk out there and took some (not enough) action steps to protect my kids. Because THAT’S MY JOB…to protect them. I’ve given them iPhones, iPods, access to iPads, Wii, laptops, you name it. I might as well just have opened the front door and let some creeper child predator take ’em.

I’m going to be frank, like it or not, mom/dad. First and foremost get your under 13 year old kids OFF OF FACECRACK. They lied to get on. Terms of Service on Facebook states you must be 13 or older. I stuck to my guns with mine. Were they happy? No. Did at least one of my kids do it anyways? Yes. One of them did, and got busted and punished.

I should’ve known, but learned also other sites/apps ie: Twitter, MeetMe, Instagram, Snapchat, Minecraft Realm, etc. are not to be used by kids under 13. They are gateways to predators (ever see that ongoing chat box on Minecraft? Oh, I’ve ignored) But, oh my gosh, we are going to have one unhappy household here.

In fact, we don’t have a happy household, as let me tell you what my 10 year old son told me as we discussed this all at the dinner table. He HAS BEEN THE TARGET of (what I’d describe as) a predator on Minecraft. Some player pulled him aside in a private chat. Whatever conversation ensued, that started out textbook “You’re a great player”, ended up asking my son where he lived. Pretty bold, eh? Son said he closed the chat down, saying he knew it was wrong and proceeded to pound on him in the game. It’s scary, folks.

I will choose to not be the cool mom in an effort to save my kids from being a victim.

Here’s how Agent Szatkowski opened the presentation…we need to “keep pace with the technology, because it keeps changing”. I can tell you from experience, there is indeed a difference between when my 19 and 17 were just entering the realm of texting/mobile phone usage, getting online, etc. and what I’m dealing with only a few 8 years later with my younger two.

It’s not that the kids shouldn’t have some of these things. There are ways to use them safely. Szatkowki describes that your child goes into a contract with you, the parent. We’ve given them these devices and they MUST USE IT PROPERLY and USE IT WITH RESPECT.  There needs to be full understanding by both the parent and the child what the potential of these devices, apps, websites are, as well as what the boundaries are. And as parents we need to check in. There needs to be open communication. The kids need to know that they’ve been trusted to use digital technology and if they go out of bounds, there are consequences. This is all done in love. I mean you do want to keep them safe because you love them. Right? Or the other choice is to look the other way/let ’em loose. Szatkowski stresses the need to let your child know you love them by telling them. That sounds easy for some of us. But, is it said?

One thing that rang true with the countless number of cases, Szatkowski brought up and I quote…”nobody thought it could happen to them”. There was a  boy in the audience, probably 11ish, with his parents on either side of him, didn’t think his dad’s friend would force him to watch pornography. (Do you let your kid watch YouTube? watch the crap scrolling at the bottom, it’s sick) He wakes up with nightmares, thinking someone’s watching him all of the time. This was his neighbor. His mom could barely contain herself when this brave young man shared his story. I was choked up and tears welled up in my eyes.

Mom, Dad, (um, Me)….stay on top of it. It’s easy to ignore the “gateway to the world” we’ve gladly given the keys over to our 11 year olds, our 10 year olds, and 4 even our year olds. Can they be responsible to hold the key to their own safety? I think not!

I can’t change the world. But I am responsible for change in my home, my world.

I am in contact with special agent Szatkowski and will post his future public presentations here and on our website’s calendar.

Here is another presentation/training, as they are calling it. You don’t have to be a parent of an adopted or foster child. (I asked)! Though some of the content will be tailored to those parents/families.
Here’s the link to Social Media and Foster Care/ Adoption Training on March 25th:


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Carla Stirle said,

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I can’t wait until his next presentation, so I can attend!

  2. 3

    […] from everything he told me) was a target…I even wrote a blog about it:  Read more…Creeper Alert: Proceed with Caution. I have not, and probably will never move on from that subject. Peeps, it’s here. It’s […]

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