Our Voice: Tech-smart kids need a dose of good sense

December 15, 2013 

Elizabeth Romero.

It is a difficult task to protect teenagers from themselves. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Judging from the number of page views on tricityherald.com, the whole community and beyond is interested in how a 14-year-old Kennewick girl met a man online and ended up in Mexico.

Before last week, it had been a while since we had an Amber Alert from the Mid-Columbia. But one was issued when Elizabeth Romero didn't come home from school.

She was last seen getting into a car with a 19-year-old boyfriend she had only met in person around Thanksgiving.

Police cancelled the Amber Alert last week after Romero called her mom from Jalisco, Mexico.

The 19-year-old, Edwardo Fabien Flores Rosales, is wanted for kidnapping.

It's hard to know if the event should be classified as an abduction or a runaway; there is certainly more to the story.

In either event -- or something inbetween -- the first lesson is for parents to know what their teens are doing online. Which, unfortunately, is easier said than done.

Even with the most diligent of home monitoring systems and passwords, there are ways for kids to be into online mischief -- even danger.

There are computers outside of the home that kids have access to. There are libraries and schools and friends with electronic devices.

Even the youngest children have access to technology through someone else's tablet or phone. We cannot overlook the fact that we live in a digital world now.

Not only do kids have access to technology, the savvy ones also have access to ways to cover their tracks, if they are so inclined.

Should parents monitor their children's computer use? Yes. Will that solve the problem? No.

Old-school parents are not much of a challenge for new-age techies.

The one edge a mature adult has in this battle is experience. It's the best weapon in our arsenal. We need to use it wisely.

We need to educate our children about ill-willed predators well before their teen years.

For one thing, you will get a warmer response from a 10-year-old than a 16-year-old.

And, as with topics of drugs, bullying and sex, these talks must come sooner rather than later. The more nave the child, the bigger the risks.

Our kids grow up too fast. If we don't talk to them, someone else surely will. And if our youth don't have good information from us, when they get the bad information that is sure to come, they won't have anything to judge it by.

It would be nice if smartphones came with a common sense app. Because they don't, we still have to teach it. Early. Often. Every chance we get.

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