This is sponsored content from BlogHer and LG Text Ed
In Part One I introduced you to Rob, my 11-but-almost-12-year-old. He's in sixth grade. A bunch of us are asking our kids of different ages questions about sexting and technology and Facebook and so forth, to see at what point kids are still like, "What are you talking about?" and at what point they're more like "Duh, Mom, a little late for this talk." Rob is my firstborn, and when I was his age technology wasn't this kind of problem, so I'm trying to find out from him what he already knows, what is and isn't a problem at his school, and what he and I still need to talk about.
Swistle: Does it bother you if I use your picture on my blogs, or on Facebook?
Rob: I don't know.
Swistle: Well, does it bother you to have your picture on the internet?
Swistle: What if it were an embarrassing picture?
Rob: Well, yeah, then it would!
Swistle: Why do you want a cell phone?
Rob: Because everyone else has one and they assume I have one already.
Swistle: But what would you use it for?
Rob: Calling and whatever else it did.
Swistle: Do your friends have cell phones?
Rob: Most of them, yeah.
Swistle: Are they allowed to use them in school?
Rob: Before school and after school, but other than that, no.
Swistle: Do they ever talk about people using cell phones to tease each other?
Swistle: Have you heard of anyone at school getting bullied or getting in trouble for bullying?
Rob: Yeah, no one in particular, though---they don't say names.
Swistle: Did any of the bullying involve cell phones or Facebook?
Rob: Facebook, yes; cell phones, no.
Swistle: What was the bullying on Facebook you heard about?
Rob: They just often tell us about it.
Swistle: Did you know that there's a problem with kids bullying other kids on Facebook and with cell phones?
Swistle: How did you hear about it?
Rob: They just keep telling us about that kind of thing at school.
Swistle: On Parents' Night, the computer teacher told us that the assistant principal keeps an eye out for students on Facebook---had you heard of that?
Rob: YEAH! And also they told us that the police have 8 secret Facebook identities so that they can see when people are bullying other people.
Swistle: Do you know what happens if they see bullying on Facebook?
Swistle: They told us that they've gotten student Facebook accounts suspended---especially if the student isn't 13 yet.
Swistle: Is anyone you know on Facebook?
Swistle: Can you estimate what percentage of the other kids are on Facebook?
Rob: Probably 90%.
Swistle: NINETY percent? Even though they're not 13?
Rob: Yep. They just say they're 21.
Swistle: Don't they get caught?
Rob: I don't know.
Swistle: Have you heard of anyone getting caught?
Rob: No. They say their parents let them---if that's what you're asking.
Swistle: What about the asst principal and the police officer---don't they notice the kids?
Rob: Yeah, but they don't bust them. For some reason.
Swistle: Do you think it's because they only go after the bullying?
Rob: Yeah! Probably! But then if they get caught bullying AND they're not 13 yet, they're REALLY busted.
Swistle: Are you on Facebook?
Swistle: Why not?
Rob: You won't let me because I'm not 13 yet.
Swistle: When you're 13, do you want to get a Facebook account?
Rob: Because it sounds fun.
Swistle: If you had a Facebook account, would you be Facebook friends with your school friends?
Swistle: And would you want to be Facebook friends with Dad and me?
Rob: Well, what can you do if you're Facebook friends with someone? Like, are they just on your list?
Swistle: You can look in their profiles and see what they're doing on Facebook.
Rob: Then yeah, sure.
Swistle: Do you know what sexting is?
Swistle: Have you heard the word before?
Rob: Nope. ...Well, just now, when you said it.
Swistle: What would you do if one of your friends was teasing someone else using texting?
Rob: Well, like what?
Swistle: Like...what if kids were all talking meanly about some girl? And what if they sent around an embarrassing picture of her?
Rob: *looks shocked* I don't know!
Swistle: What if something was happening on Facebook, like everyone was talking on the wall about how dumb someone was or something?
Rob: *more shock* I don't know.
Swistle: Would you feel comfortable telling me about it?
Rob: I don't really know.
Swistle: Would you feel comfortable telling a teacher at school?
Rob: I'm not really sure. I'd assume that someone else would say something.
Swistle: And then there's those people at school already keeping an eye out.
Swistle: Does this make you feel safer, that people are keeping an eye out for bullying and trouble? or does it make you feel weird, like you're being watched?
Rob: Kind of both.
Swistle: Do you get to go online at school?
Rob: Only to look up library books and to get Google pictures for computer assignments.
Swistle: Could you get onto the internet if, like, the teacher wasn't paying attention?
Rob: I think they'd notice. And also, most of the sites are blocked. There is one place I go: I asked if I could go on [Wikipedia about a game he likes], and the teacher said, "If it lets you, go for it."
Swistle: Are some kids not allowed to go online, like because their parents don't want them to?
Swistle: So everybody goes online during computer class?
Swistle: Can you get on Facebook from school?
Rob: I don't know---I've never tried.
Swistle: Have you heard of Myspace?
Swistle: Do kids you know have Myspace accounts?
Rob: Yeah. Are you supposed to be 18 to get one, or is it 13?
Swistle: I don't know. Do the other kids say what they do on Myspace or what it's for?
Rob: Not really, but I guess it's like Facebook.
Swistle: Do they teach typing at school?
Rob: Yeah: they did at the beginning of the year, and in fifth grade.
Swistle: Wasn't it before fifth grade?
Swistle (to William): William, have you learned to type in school? [William's in fourth grade.]
Swistle: Do you ever get sick of technology? Like, sick of computers and stuff?
Rob: Not really.
Swistle: Do you like computers?
Rob: Yeah! I'm glad I have it every day at school.
Swistle: Do you ever wish there was a day without technology, or a project that didn't involve technology?
Rob: No. But sometimes I think about living out in the jungle!
William: That's new.
Swistle: Do your teachers mention Facebook groups, like they assume you use it or expect you to?
Rob: No. I don't really know what "groups" is.
Swistle: I guess since they specifically say they think Facebook is a problem with students...
Swistle: What do you think of parents being friends with their kids on Facebook---so the parents can see what the kids are doing and saying?
Rob: I don't know.
Swistle: I think we'll probably want to be your Facebook friend so we can make sure nothing bad is going on.
To see interviews with kids in other age groups: the BlogHer round-up page.
From the client:
Have you had a conversation with your kids (or nephews/nieces, grandchildren) about texting, sexting and safety? BlogHer is matching LG’s donation of .50 to dosomething.org for every comment on this post, so please tell me about your conversation with your kids in the comments. Or if you haven’t had the conversation yet, what’s holding you back? Maybe another reader will have the perfect suggestion for how you can get your conversation going. It’s important for all our families, and dosomething.org will get a $1.00 for every comment, question or suggestion.
Visit LG Text Ed , where Dr. Rosalind Wiseman explains the dangers and consequences of this new form of flirting. You can also watch Emmy award winning actress Jane Lynch share a lesson on the sensitive stuff kids are sending around without thinking about the consequences.