A while ago my 13-year-old boy seemed to be getting moodier by the day. This went on for a few weeks. Normally a well-adjusted child, Jeremie was growing increasingly withdrawn, not letting me in. I thought that he was struggling with depression because of the recent death of his father – he died in a three-car accident eight months earlier. However, we had moved to get a fresh start and Jeremie was beginning to fit in very well with his new school. So, this latest behavior was a little difficult to explain despite everything.
One day, while putting away his laundry in his bedroom, his smartphone sent out an alert and instinctively, I picked it up from his bed. I wasn’t trying to invade his privacy, but my maternal instincts were in full sensitivity mode with his recent behavior. Jeremie was outside playing with his friends but I also knew that a 13-year old and his phone cannot separate for long so I had little time.
Cautiously, I looked at the screen. The message was from someone that I had never heard my son mentioned before. What I read sent shockwaves through my mind and heart. Someone had texted my son and told him that he was worthless and worse, he said that my son should have died alongside my husband. I dropped the phone back onto his bed and went to my own bedroom and cried. How could anyone be so cruel?
When Jeremie came back home, I talked to him about what I had read. At first, he was understandably upset at the invasion of his privacy but understood that it was an accident and that I wasn’t trying to crowd him. But it did give us an opportunity to talk about what I had seen.
The short story was that he and Garth (the boy who had so hideously messaged him) got into a disagreement and things escalated. However, Garth was particularly mean and vicious. I did some investigating about cyberbullying and found a cell phone surveillance software called KidGuard. This software tracks messages, videos, and downloads all messages that can be shared with responsible adults such as parents, principals, and law enforcement.
After purchasing cell phone surveillance software from KidGuard, in two days I had enough evidence to share with Garth’s parents and the school principal that Garth was harassing my son. Garth was suspended for two months from school and forbidden to have any contact with Jeremie for one year. Garth’s friends, who themselves had been cyberbullying other students, took notice of what happened to Garth and stopped, at least for awhile.
Nothing takes the place of staying involved with our children’s lives in an open and honest way. But having some technology that lets you combat digital dangers is a relief, and a welcomed one at that.