Category Archives: Cell Phones

Death by Texting

It’s bad enough when people drive and talk on the phone – they don’t have the use of their phone hand for maneuvering the car (and in many states, talking without a hands-free headset is illegal), and they are totally absorbed in a conversation, meaning they’re not looking alertly for pedestrians, bicyclists, a herd of buffalo or other cars.  What’s even more egregious is the texting craze which has the driver looking down and reading or dialing or writing and not even looking ahead at the road for several seconds, which could mark the difference between life and death.

For Victoria McBryde, 24, those few precious seconds meant her death.  22 year old Phillipa Curtis has been convicted of the death of Ms McBryde – caused by texting while driving.  The victim’s car had broken down and was by the side of the road with all its lights on and emergency lights blinking – a bit hard NOT to notice.  Nonetheless, she was killed instantly when her car was rear-ended by the texting Ms. Curtis, who will spend only two years in prison for this crime.

This all took place in Britain, which has added jail time to a conviction for killing by texting and driving.  Ms. Curtis’ phone records indicated that she had exchanged nearly two dozen messages with at least five friends, mostly concerning her encounter with a celebrity singer she had served at a restaurant where she worked.  That’s what was so important?  For that, someone had to die??  Death due to dangerous driving (e.g., texting) is on the level of drinking while driving, and can earn four to seven years in jail.  Apparently, the perp was a pretty, seemingly sweet young thing, and so her jail time was minimized by the judge – a sentence that was met with anger by the victim’s family as well as the by the prosecutor…and by me.

Ironically, it was also discovered that the victim herself had sent a text message and talked on her cell phone using the speaker function while driving before her car broke down. 

Please don’t think you are invincible, and the laws and recommendations about driving safely apply to everyone else, while you are “special.”  The lives of these two young women are forever changed.  One life was forfeited; the other woman is jailed and living with the guilt of having killed another human being because she just had to gossip to five friends about seeing a rock star.  Sad.

It’s Not Easy Being a Good Parent in the Digital Age

I’m turning my blog today over to Kim Komando.  She is a nationally syndicated talk show host, focusing on the Internet and digital consumer electronics.  Kim and I whole-heartedly believe in protecting children and below she details some very important points parents need to be aware of in this digital age.

It’s Not Easy Being a Good Parent in the Digital Age
Kim Komando

I received a call on my national radio show a few weeks ago. A concerned father wanted to know about a particular site on the Internet where his 11-year-old son was chatting online. It seemed harmless. His son created a cartoon-like representation of himself called an avatar.

Dad approved of it. But soon, the son was buying virtual goods for his avatar. Dad took a closer look at what his little boy was about to purchase. Good thing; they were sex toys.

Far too often, parents don’t get involved with their children’s online activities until something bad happens. They dismiss the warning signs. They don’t monitor what the kids are doing because they don’t have the time, their child would never do that, or some other lame excuse.

I am still astounded by the parents who don’t want to invade their child’s privacy. They don’t think it is right to snoop on their child’s Web travels, e-mail and text messages. They usually liken it to reading a teenager’s hidden diary. “No one should do that,” they say.

If only it were that simple.

With the Internet now in our homes and on our phones, this wonderful digital world has brought the inappropriate and criminal elements directly into our lives. What seems harmless and fun can quickly turn into a pedophile’s dream and a parent’s nightmare.

For instance, you may be unaware of Web sites where kids use Webcams. In effect, they broadcast live video and audio from their bedrooms. The people using the live broadcasting sites can watch them. They can leave comments. You can bet pedophiles are watching them, too.

Pedophiles have actually helped kids set up sites. They have arranged credit card acceptance through online payment sites. The children perform sex acts, broadcast with Webcams. The pedophiles pay to watch.

The other day my 8-year-old son Ian received a text-message from his friend John. John wanted to know if he downloaded a particular free game from iTunes. The rule in my home is that before anything gets downloaded, Ian and I learn more about it. I need to approve it.

The game these two boys were talking about had a plot something like this: A convicted felon escapes from prison. He is roaming the streets of downtown Los Angeles. He needs to make money to survive and go on missions. To do this, he has to kill people.

Needless to say, that game didn’t make it onto his phone.

Social-networking sites are less dangerous. But you still have to watch what children say. They have profiles. Be sure they’re not including their phone numbers and addresses.

Again, the best protection is alert parents. Don’t wait for trouble! Be proactive!

Need some help? Here are tips to help you get in front of the issues.

* Find out if sex offenders live in your area http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=2306
* Cell phone plans that put you in control and even tell you where the phone is located http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=3861
* Figure out text messaging lingo http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=3496
* Control kids iTunes use http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=4092
* The free tool that I use to block inappropriate content in my home http://www.komando.com/tips/index.aspx?id=6501

The Kim Komando Show (www.komando.com) is the largest nationally syndicated weekend talk radio show. Kim Komando focuses on the Internet and digital consumer electronics. Komando also distributes the Kim Komando Digital Minute, a one-minute consumer update on digital news.  

The Dangers of Teen Sexting

In the more than three decades I have been on the radio and in counseling practice, the saddest experiences (and the most difficult to be helpful with) are those where parents call to tell me their child is dead.  The child may have been the victim of an accident, war, a crime, an illness, or a suicide.  No matter which, the pain is unimaginable and the duration is infinite.  It is against the “order of things” for our children to die first; and it is against the order of things for us to feel incapable of protecting our children from everything, anything, and anyone. 

The hurt and rage a parent feels is understandable.  A desire to do something with that hurt and rage is also understandable. It is generally difficult to get a sense of closure or justice or revenge.  And so many parents believe that, if they can get one or all of those, the pain goes away.  It doesn’t….not really.

An 18 year old young woman in Ohio sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend.  Apparently, this “texting” of private parts is quite the rage in the youth population.  At some point, the relationship ended, and he, I guess, thought it would be amusing to send the photos to other students at the school.

In May, 2008, the young teen went on a local Cincinnati television station to warn other teens against sending personal body part or naked photos to others, lest they also go through the harassment that she got, as students – mostly girls – called her a “slut” and a “whore.”  In spite of her noble efforts to warn other young people, and the gratitude she got from innumerable parents, two months later, she decided to kill herself, apparently as a way to avoid the painful embarrassment.

“Sexting” (as it’s called) is a growing problem that has resulted in child pornography charges being filed against some teens across the country, because sending sexually charged pictures of minors is a crime  One national survey found that 39% or more of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages, and 48% report receiving them!

This young woman was humiliated by the daily snide remarks, and she started skipping school.  Her mother drove her to school to make sure she got there.  Then, after attending the funeral of one of her friends who committed suicide, this young, tormented woman hanged herself in her bedroom.

Of course, the focus for her mother is an attempt to punish those students or the school with lawsuits and criminal charges.  The mother is understandably beside herself and wanting to lash out in rage.  However, the fault doesn’t lie in the stars.  The openly sexual environment that children are exposed to makes these behaviors (like oral sex in middle school classrooms and bathrooms across the country) seem like the norm for the day.  Girls have always wanted to make boys love them, and cell phone texting technology just gives young people another avenue to express their hopeful desperation to be wanted and loved.

It was pathetic and stupid of her to send the picture; it was unconscionable of her ex-boyfriend to expose her to ridicule; it was disgusting for girls (competitive little witches that some can be) to make fun of her; it was brave for her to use her experience to warn others; it was too bad her family didn’t get her mental health support or transfer her to another school; it was a deadly coincidence that her friend committed suicide; it is an unspeakable anguish that she thought this was the best solution for a “temporary” problem.

I hesitate to write “temporary” because, with the Internet, such photos are forever, and those who wish to cause hurt to others relish in exploiting such mishaps for their own pathetic ego gain.

Parents, many of your children have already done this via hand-held video cameras or computer cameras.  Many of your children have already been “embarrassed,” while others have become more popular.  Very few will kill themselves, but even then, something in them does die, as what is precious and private becomes entertainment for the immature and downright mean.  Parents, make sure your kids know not to become either.

Texting Can Be Dangerous to Your Life!

It was a minor news item when a Barack Obama aide fell off a Chicago curb while texting on her BlackBerry.  Evidently, she is one of way too many people getting hurt as they text while doing something else at the same time.  The ability to multi-task can be a great thing, unless it’s taking attention away from where you are walking, bicycling, rollerblading, driving, cooking, and even riding a horse!

The American College of Emergency Physicians has even put out an alert, because of the rising reports from doctors around the country who are seeing injuries as a result of text-messaging “on the go.”  Two people in California have died while texting as they crossed the street, because they weren’t looking around at their surroundings before stepping off the curb.

I’ve been amazed to see bicycle riders pumping quickly around my neighborhood while either holding a cell phone to their ear or texting with one hand, while supposedly steering their bike with the other.  It’s amazing to see, but quite dangerous to do.

Kids and Their Cell Phones

According to the Associated Press (5/27/08) Japanese youngsters are getting so addicted to Internet-linking cell phones that the government is starting a program warning parents and schools to limit their use among children.  The government is worried about how elementary and junior high school students are getting drawn into cyberspace crimes, spending long hours exchanging mobile email, and suffering other negative effects of cell phone overuse.  The government is also asking Japanese manufacturers to develop cell phones with only the “talk” function and GPS.

Some youngsters are spending hours at night on email with their friends.  One fad is the “30 minute rule,” in which a child who doesn’t respond to email within 30 minutes gets targeted for bullying the next day.  Other children have sent in their own snapshots to a website and then ended up getting threatened for money.

The cell phone craze in America is tightly connected to the growing “disconnect” between children and their busy, busy parents who feel some false sense of security while not supervising their children simply because the phone has a GPS locator.  Parents should not, as a matter of course, be giving cell phones with Internet access to children – it is just too tempting to abuse, and it puts them at risk.