Lots of you out there have seen my page about eBlaster and I would LOVE IT if you’d share your stories of using the program so other parents out there can see how it’s helped you and your family.
I’m going to share some other stories from others, posted from the eBlaster webpage when I get the time, but I feel it better to start with my own. This is too long to put on the eBlaster page on our site… no one would ever read it, so I’m giving it it’s own page here.
Why Even Do This?
After my video went viral on Facebook and I refused to do press interviews I started receiving emails from the press asking me to answer questions. I agreed to do it in public on my Facebook wall, so my words couldn’t get twisted up or taken out of context. I got lots of press requests, a ridiculously high amount, from the USA, Canada, Germany, and a ton of other countries. To date I still haven’t been able to respond to them all. There just isn’t enough hours in the day.
One question posited to me just kind of “set me off” on one of my rants. If you’ve ever read any of my blogs, you know I’m known for that from time to time. I’ll never be accused of being too brief. That’s for sure. The question was posed from a Charlotte, NC web editor for the local news station. It was number nine on his list of questions. You can see the repost here on the website. Scroll down to number 9 to see the question I’m talking about.
The question was: “What would your best advice be to parents of teens who use social media?”
It was most likely because this was the first question that didn’t revolve around “why did you shoot your kid’s laptop” that I actually set off on a REAL answer to a REAL question.
I’m an IT consultant, meaning I do everything from fix people’s home computers, to manage their corporate networks, to train work-at-home people how to use common programs that some of us geeks take for granted. Throughout the course of this kind of career I’m constantly fixing issues related to children’s use of computers. Kids are kids and, especially the younger ones, rarely think of what could happen when they click a button… so it’s always something new. During a remote session with parents I’m often amazed to find that they have absolutely NO IDEA what their kids are doing on the computer. I hear things like “Oh, yeah. My eight year old is on the Facebook thing all the time. I don’t have time for that mess. I don’t even know how to use the Facebook.” (I love when people put “the” in front of Facebook or Twitter. For some reason it just makes me laugh.)
The Clueless Parent
I don’t tell someone else how to parent, but I DO try to make parents aware that they might want to know what their kids are doing, if only for their safety. If I saw sexual predators in the community park, I’d warn parents from dropping their kids off there too. I’m just helpful that way. (I know I’m gonna take crap for that snarky remark.) Their only thought seems to be that their particular child would never do anything illicit or scandalous because they’re good kids… which is probably true in most cases. What I try to coach parents to understand is this:
Do you know what the OTHER people little Jane is talking to online are doing, saying, sending her, asking her, etc? Are they pretending to be another 14 year old kid just to weasel information about maybe what time Mom goes to work, just so they can sneak over to kidnap/molest/stalk/harrass/harm your kid? It’s not like when we used to go outside and see our kids playing with another child, when we can see who they’re talking to. Let me propose it to you this way, since parent’s don’t seem to understand how fast the world we live in has changed:
Let’s pretend Facebook is a really big real-world park. Ok? That’s not too much of a stretch for the imagination, right? It’s a big place where lots of people congregate, play games together, talk in private, and hang out…. right? Everyone is there, but off in their own little groups. You let your daughter Jane go over to the other side of the park and play with other kids, like all parents do, right? You just keep a general eye on them to be sure they’re safe.
Now, what would you do as a mother or father if you saw your nine-year old little girl over playing near the corner of the park and talking with a 53 year old man in a trench coat in the middle of summer, with shady looks and beady eyes and whom you don’t know? If you say nothing, I personally feel like you’re probably not telling the truth. My mom would have come over and yelled “Hey! You! What are you doing talking to my kid? Who are you?” (Actually that’s an understatement. I only remember being threatened once, by some bikers. My mother went back in the house, pulled out a pistol and stared down a harley-biker gang from behind the barrel when she was protecting us as kids against some people she didn’t like around us. Real story. Really. She did that. My mom is freakin cool!) Anyway, you would probably run over and pull your kid close to you and keep me safe from a stranger. That’s what parents are supposed to do! You don’t do it to your kids because you don’t trust THEM… you’d do it because you don’t trust that strange, shifty-eyed dude who looks like he’s the type to abduct your child.
Now… wake up people!!!!
That’s what’s happening on Facebook and MySpace EVERY SINGLE DAY and it’s happening in a playground that covers the whole world!
Your kids are digitally connected. It’s a fact. Facebook, MySpace, and the Internet in general are like giving your kid a gun with no safety. (Pretty appropriate analogy considering I’ll forever be remembered as the “Facebook Dad who Shot His Daughter’s Laptop… sigh.) Letting your kids have technology like this without supervision, and I mean REAL supervision, is like loading that gun with bullets when you don’t even know how to use one, and walking out of the room to let them play. How are you gonna feel when they get hurt? Ignorance isn’t an excuse because I’m telling you about this crap right now. Believe it, or don’t, but don’t come back here in eight months and share a “this wouldn’t have happened if I’d monitored my kids” story.
Ok, so you Want Proof?
You think I’m exaggerating for even a second? Go to Google.com, and type the words “Facebook” and “Molested” into the search engine… then sit back and really read what comes up in the search results. Next try maybe “MySpace” and “Rape” in the same search box. Go wild
There is an article on Gainesville.com news about a confessed child molester (a man who targeted young boys in this case) who just voluntarily admitted to molesting four boy scouts. He was an official contact on a Boy Scout troop’s Facebook page, where he could have reached out and harrassed hundreds more kids. Did he? I have no idea, and probably never will, but he admitted to four without even being prompted too hard. He’s also on Linked In as an Eagle Scout, where he could use that same organization in a similar way to reach out to young boys. Replace Facebook and Linked In with words like MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, Digg, Yahoo, Skype, and tons of others and you’ve got hundreds and realistically thousands of kids across an entire globe people like this can reach out to. They don’t have to be physically IN your back yard to mess with your kids!
In Indiana, here is an article on a man who molested a girl he met on Facebook. Here is one in Texas where a woman molested a five and six year old, then posted the porno-molestation photos to Facebook. (Didn’t know your kids could see kiddy porn on Facebook did you?)
Here’s the actual worst-case scenario all us parents fear. A 53 year-old man used a series of fake Facebook profiles to actually trick, then meet, then have sex with young girls in West Virginia. And this guy is the kind I’m telling you to watch out for.. he’s not messing with ONE girl. He’s messing with multiple ones from various locations and ranging in age from 12 to 15.
Here is a case where a couple on MySpace were charged with 56 counts of rape (that’s what I got for Googling MySpace and Rape.. just the top headline. There are many others.)
There is just NOW finally a bill being put before the senate to make sex offenders register their Facebook profiles. Really?
If this stuff doesn’t sicken you to death and make you want to watch your kids more actively, I simply don’t know how to bring it to your attention! This COULD BE YOUR KID! And YOU DON’T KNOW!
Ok, let’s get off the child molestation angle and approach it from another angle, how about your child’s future reputation, job eligibility, and appearance to others who see their wall? Here’s a study that details that 47% of Facebook walls contain profanity. Personally I don’t like my kids using that on their wall (which led to the whole laptop+bullet thing in the first place.) Of those forty-seven percent, 80% of those have at LEAST one post or comment with profanity that’s from friends, not even from the person itself. But like Mom told me growing up; like it or not, whether its fair or not, you are always guilty by association.
People in today’s job market, even teens, are fired daily for posts made on Facebook. In my state specifically I KNOW it’s legal to do so. Happens to people all the time. I’ve known people terminated for what OTHER people posted on their Facebook wall. In that case, a local bank felt that the employees represented the bank poorly by posting lewd photos on their walls. Even though everything the people did was legal, the bank felt that it reflected THEM as well, and they wanted no such association. Bam.. job… gone.
The “Oh I know better” Parent
What’s worse than the parents who don’t care are parents who underestimate their children. Unless you spend every day playing with social networking like they do, you’re not better at it then they are. I’ll give you an example from my own child that I know about. Kids at her school have their own list of websites that let them bypass parental controls. They’re constantly finding ways around school-enforced blocks. As fast as you can find a way to block them, they find ways around them. They share tips and tricks to get around a lot of the commonly used freeware monitoring solution. You’re simply NOT easily able to outpace twenty-one-MILLION determined teenagers! They go to school and share with each other all the new tricks they’re learning about how to bypass firewalls, use web-proxies, anonymize their IP addresses. I bet that last sentence meant nothing to most of you parents. Go bring your 15 year old kid into the room and have them explain it to you. I bet THEY know what it means. They share tricks on how to use websites to send text messages even if you take text messaging off their phone. They can skype call from your home wi-fi connection without even having the phone active if they have a new generation iPod or Android device.
Anyway, the point of this section is to say I love meeting parents who say “I know how to read their computer histories” or “I make them give me all their passwords.”
Really? Can you prove it? Can you 100% for sure guarantee that they don’t:
- Have a second Facebook account you don’t know about?
- Have a second MySpace account you don’t know about?
- Have another email address you don’t know about?
- Don’t know how to enable incognito browsing? (Google Chrome)
- Don’t know how to enable In-Private Browsing? (Internet Explorer)
- Know how to alter the log files of your parental programs before you have a chance to check them?
- Access Facebook, MySpace, Twitter from their phone?
- Chat on sites you don’t know about?
The Kid’s Perspective
I’ll save the networks the time spent polling this particular piece of data. How many kids think parents shouldn’t have a right to know what they’re doing every second of the day and that they deserve privacy? I’d feel safe saying 90% of them. We deserve privacy! We demand privacy! It’s our right! You can’t snoop on us. You can’t spy on us!
They’re wrong. They’re kids. They’re allowed to be wrong. If they were right all the time, or even most of the time, we’d consider them adults and treat them as such. Kids do not have a RIGHT to privacy from their parents. If you choose to grant them the PRIVILEGE of privacy as a parent, that’s awesome for you. My kids get that privilege too, until they abuse it. It’s not a right. I, you, we (as parents) have a duty to protect our kids from freaks out there who intend to do them harm, as well as from their own mistakes that could follow them for a long time to come.
Believe me, (and I actually think I can claim this with 100% certainty) no child in the history of the nation currently knows what THAT feels like more than mine. More than 28 MILLION PEOPLE (and counting) heard what my daughter wrote on her Facebook wall. She made a mistake online. Then I made one just like it. They learned it through MY actions, not hers, but the point is the same. ONE SLIP and you could have your family, your kid, yourself out there forever with no way to take it back.
I’m sorry my daughter learned her lesson by being embarrassed the way she was, but if it’s opened a dialogue like this to the world at large, then we’re OK with shouldering that as a family, because we have a platform on which to speak from experience on the matter. We KNOW what it feels like in ways hopefully most of you will never have to understand. Use some discretion when it comes to your kids. I’d rather mine be mad at me and safe, than happy and fired from a job, abducted, or raped.
Shut up and tell your story already…
Ok, yeah, fine. (I had to go back to my email and search to find all the records, but I got ’em now.., so here goes.) First, understand that by telling you all this, I’m already making my own parenting life harder, much harder. There’s a good chance my kid is going to read this one day and be smart enough not to fall for the same tricks. So, I’ll have to find new ways to protect MY kid, but I think it’s important enough to share so some of you might prevent the same situation from happening to your kids.
On January 15th of 2011, my daughter’s mother called me because of some “stuff” she suspected our child was doing on Facebook. Yes, I have full-time remote access to my kid’s computers and yes I have eBlaster installed on my kid’s computers. So, I entered the access code to launch the hidden program and began to go through what she’d done on the days immediately previous to, and after, the things her Mom told me to check out. The GREAT thing about eBlaster and Spector Pro is that regardless of what the kids THINK they deleted, there is absolutely NO WAY to delete the data where me and her mother cant’ get to it, short of wiping the computer completely clean, which I’d know about anyway.
So, even though my child deleted her Facebook messages, wiped her chat history, and deleted all the emails she thought were incriminating, I could still see them all anyway. The program even called attention to them simply BECAUSE she’d deleted them. (A big fat +1 in my book by the way).
What I found galled me to no end. My child was 14 at the time, so yes I found it disturbing to find her Facebook history proliferated with pictures of another [male] child’s genitalia, right there on her screen. I immediately began “snooping” for real at this point. I wanted to know everything that led up to it so I should know whether to yell at both kids or just the one who sent this to my daughter. I was somewhat mollified to find out that I couldn’t find anything on the computer to suggest she’d asked for this kind of thing, encouraged it, or otherwise engaged in sharing it with anyone else. Ok, so some other friend of hers is sending photos of naked boys to my 14 year old girl. Now… I’m a little mad. Mad really isn’t even the right word to use, but I’ll remain PG-13 for the younger audience who might read this one day.
Did I tell my child I’d caught this? Nope. I didn’t say a word. That’s the BIGGEST mistake you can make. If you let on to your kids that you know something that you could have ONLY found out about snooping through their computer, well then they just know never to use that computer for that kind of stuff. So I stayed quiet for a couple of days, just to see what happened. I already knew my daughter was going to spend the night with this same friend who’d sent this stuff and I figured they’d be on the Internet half the night, so I didn’t want to give it away.
A couple days later my daughter went to stay with this girl friend of hers. I sat at home for two days twiddling my fingers, upset and worried, but hoping I’d made right decision to let her go over there. When she was back home again I remotely logged back into her PC, opened the tracking software, and then I got REALLY mad.
While at this friend’s house (a 15-year old girl who went to the same school), the girl friend had logged into her own (not my daughter’s) Facebook account on my daughter’s computer and started up a conversation with this guy… this 30 year old guy. I’m not going to tell you what transcribed during the conversation because there’s no way to do so without being overly graphic. Instead I’ll give you a list of the things I caught them doing together within a window of just a couple hours.
- I recorded a sexually explicit conversation between a 30 year old man and a 15 year old girl.
- I received proof that I KNEW he knew her age.
- I saw her encourage him to send photos to her of him in various naked positions.
- I saw him SEND those photos to her.
- I saw them carry on a conversation about having him come over to have sex with this girl WHILE MY DAUGHTER WAS AT HER HOUSE!
Luckily that didn’t actually happen so I was spared the punishment of going to jail for severely beating one or possibly two people that night. (Relax people, I’m exaggerating.. but only kinda)
Knowing this girl has less than a model home-life (obviously), I called the school system to see what they could do. They put me in touch with the school’s resource officer, a police officer who works at the school. I told him the story, told him I had the evidence to back it up, and that I wanted this kid away from my kid, or at least scared straight if possible.
Unfortunately there wasn’t anything he was authorized to do at the school level because this didn’t happen on school property, so we talked about other alternatives we could pursue. Legally I could have had her arrested and tried as a minor for transmitting child pornography (Federal AND State offense), consenting statutory rape (Federal and State offense), and a variety of other crimes, just to prove a point. I could have have had the man tried, easily convicted, and imprisoned. And I could have had the boy with the naked photo charged with some of the same crimes.To my credit I actually didn’t try to bury this kid under the jail, though I could have. Instead the police officer told me he could pick her up, bring her in, make her understand that I COULD have buried her in the penal system for the remainder of her juvenile lifetime, and that I’d decided not to… assuming she kept this kind of crap away from my kid in the future. We decided on that route instead. Should I have gone after the adult, and the other kid? I’ve got enough on my plate protecting my own kid. I don’t have time to worry about everyone else’s kids too.
The officer told me he too had a 15-year old daughter that went to the same school mine and he wanted, as a parent, to know how I did it. I told him real simply about the program I used. At the time SpectorSoft hadn’t released eBlaster yet and instead only had Spector Pro. (The two programs are similar but not exactly the same). He had no idea this software existed. This guy is a parent, a resource officer, and a police officer responsible for the safety of kids every day of his life and had no idea this could be done. It’s sad, but not surprising. Most people don’t bother to research what they CAN do until it’s too late. It’s kind of like buying a fire extinguisher after you just had a fire.. great thinking but a little late on the upswing…
I went about two years before I had the next problem with my daughter on the computer… and it wasn’t related to that when it happened again, so I feel like it was $100 well spent in my opinion.
So, What’s Your Point? Why is this one Better?
My point is that yes, there are alternative programs out there you can use. You can find some free ones even if you want. I’ve used them. Do you really think I WANTED to blow cash on something if I could find a free program or a cheaper one that does the same thing? I’m not made of money. I’d have a hard time scraping together a spare hundred bucks any day of the month, but it was worth it.
The other programs work.. eBlaster and Spector Pro EXCEL at protecting your kids. It’s plain and simple. Let’s go back to the park analogy from before, for a moment. Let’s assume you had the option to spend a few bucks to get a security guard, or even found one for free, that would volunteer to watch your kid for you night and day. Does he come with credentials? Has be been protecting kids for the last 14 years with a sterling reputation? Does he come recommended by people who actually had him save their kids? Chances are… no.
Now, let’s assume you had to spend a few more bucks, but for that few more bucks you got the Chuck Norris of body guards for your kid, backed up by a 20 million dollar firm with a decade and a half of professional experience protecting hundreds of thousands of kids just like yours AND had credentials and safety awards from almost every source imaginable…. oh wait… you Do have that choice. Just buy the program and sleep better. Save your bullets and protect your kids.
Why should we buy anything from the guy who shot his kid’s Laptop?
Because you’re not buying it from me and even if you were, you’re buying it to protect your kids. Anyway, you’re buying it from SpectorSoft. I won’t have anything to do with it, thought I am an IT engineer who would love to have more customers who want help installing it, troubleshooting it, or just who need computer help in general.
We had to setup an affiliate link because SpectorSoft wasn’t able to track the sales any other way to know what sales came from whom. Now that we have this setup, we are the ONLY WEBSITE IN THE WORLD that’s managed to get a company the size of SpectorSoft to give $10.00 from every sale we generate for them, to a charity! We’ve set it up to make sure that $10.00 from every sale, no matter how small, goes straight to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
That in itself is awesome! So if you buy it from this site, you’re giving to charity in the process. THAT’s why! You spend the same amount of money, but every 80 customers can send one more kid to camp each summer! Collectively we could literally stock an entire summer camp!!!! THAT is awesome beyond words!
Just like on the “Protect Your Kids” page I wrote, I’ll share with you guys the links to check it out if you want to know more. I really DO support this software, and more importantly I support you parents who go the extra mile to keep your kids safe. Check it out.