The internet is a wonderful thing, it connects us to family and friends, gives us the answers to all of our questions within seconds, allows parents to work from home, and explore the world from wherever we are in it. To our generation, this is amazing. I mean, if we wanted to learn about a new place, we had to hope it was in the big blue books at the library or on our Encarta CDs. Connecting with cousins and friends in another state required a very big phone bill budget or great handwriting. To us, the internet was the things we dreamed about! It’s amazing and wonderful, but as a parent to teenagers, it’s the work of the devil himself.
Last month I told you about our family’s battle with teen suicide, self harm, and online safety. I told you that I was one of those parents who checked the tablet and tried to pay attention. Our child had no real changes in behavior and what we did see, were, what we would describe as “typical teen behavior.” Nothing out of the ordinary. Those articles on signs your child was suicidal — our teen didn’t have any of those, but our teenager tried to commit suicide, more than once. We had no idea. The tablet was clean. There were no out of the ordinary searches or apps we didn’t allow installed.
It didn’t make sense to me that a child who was feeling that way would have such a “ordinary” online history. That’s because it was a rouge. After searching the child’s room we discovered an active phone we didn’t know about. A phone that had social media apps installed that we didn’t allow and the search history was horrific. HORRIFIC!
My husband and I had nightmares over this.
Our baby could have died, run away, and much worse.
We didn’t know.
This child wasn’t acting out or visibly depressed. This child was compliant, happy, and a child who would usually tell us if there was a problem or something we should be concerned about. If there were warning signs. We didn’t see them. Two parents and two other teens in the house — all of us were blindsided.
Why Would My Child Have a Secret Phone?
If your child has a secret phone, you should not overlook it. First, you need to inspect the secret phone to find out what type of content they are researching, what apps they are using, and who they are talking to. Those are the emergent things. Please keep in mind that can take HOURS to find information on your child’s phone. We spent TWO DAYS combing through YouTube videos watched, emails, web pages, app messages, apps, photo galleries. It was a Process!
There are a number of ways your child can obtain a phone and keep it a secret. First, make sure you know what happens to old phones. Donate, dispose, or sell them immediately. Don’t just toss them in a drawer or box without knowing exactly who has access to it (you do that don’t you? Yup, so did we.)
Another way your child can get a secret phone is to buy it themselves when you aren’t with them or get a hand-me-down from a friend. When you see your child on a device, parents don’t always take note of the actual shape or device in their hand. It’s become so normal for them to be holding it that we can gloss out the details. Another child said they noticed our teen on the secret phone before, but didn’t think anything of it. When you see you teen on a device, pay attention to if it is the device they are usually on.
The most horrifying way a child can get a secret mobile phone is that it was given to them by someone who may be grooming them. While this didn’t happen in my case, I have heard of this happening. The phones are mailed, given, or left for the teen. If this is how your child obtained their secret phone, call police immediately. And please remember, online doesn’t mean far away.
How Can You Monitor a Phone
You Didn’t Know Your Child Had?
During my last post on teen suicide and social media that was the number one question. How could I have known how to monitor a device I didn’t know my child had? I actually could have.
My oldest taught me how to look at our internet service provider to see what devices are connecting to our internet. Most of our known devices are named (Example: Mom’s phone, Sister’s Phone, Brother’s laptop, etc.). But earlier this year we noticed a device was connecting to our internet late at night (3 am — when “everyone” was asleep). Alarmed, we thought a neighbor was hacking into our wifi so we beefed up our security codes, etc. and notified our Internet service provider. Turns out, the device that was connecting to us, was the phone my child had. I never thought for a second that one of my children would have a device I didn’t know about.
Where to look? Visit your online dashboard to your internet service provider and name every known device your family owns — this way you can KNOW for certain, when a device that doesn’t belong to your family connects to your account. If this happens, don’t assume hacker, always assume it is your child. Look in their room, look in their closet, look in their backpacks, dirty clothes, under the bed. Everywhere! Look. Look. Look!
Parenting a teenager today is so much more than just making sure they go to school and they have friends. There are children dying all over the country who go to school, make good grades, and are very social — that are also suicidal. I’ll go into more detail about suicide and self-harm, and what to do if you find out your child is in danger in my next post.
Pray for your children. Pray for their protection.
Learn more about our story HERE.