ScreenStrong Families

Everything You Need to Know About Snapchat & Parental Controls with Officer Gomez (#111)

July 20, 2022 Officer Gomez
ScreenStrong Families
Everything You Need to Know About Snapchat & Parental Controls with Officer Gomez (#111)
Show Notes Transcript

Melanie welcomes back Officer David Gomez, a School Resource Officer (SRO) and sworn Deputy of the Boise County Sheriff’s Department. Today, Officer Gomez discusses the destructive nature of Snapchat and its secret features that parents may not know. He also explains how students get around school Firewalls and encourages parents to stay the course when it comes to screen issues.

Officer Gomez has an active and highly informative Facebook Page that he uses to educate parents on the dangers of Social Media and the internet. Make sure to follow Officer Gomez on Facebook.

Learn more about the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule.


Subscribe, rate, and review this podcast to help spread the word. Stay Strong! Our ScreenStrong Lifestyle Courses are NOW AVAILABLE!


Production Team:

  • Host—Melanie Hempe
  • Producer & Audio Editor—Olivia Kernekin
Melanie Hempe:

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the ScreenStrong families podcast, bringing you the best solutions for parents who are serious about eliminating screen conflicts and big problems in their home. This is Melanie hempy. And I am so glad you're here today, I hope that everyone is having a great summer day enjoying our vacations. And maybe you're listening to this while you're driving on those long car trips with with our kids and our teenagers. And I want to encourage you to have some screen free time this summer with your kids. So welcome, everyone, if you're one of our regular listeners, welcome back. If you're new friend, we are so glad you found us be sure and listen to some of the other episodes is well. So I just have to start really quick. Last night, we were at a baseball game because we are a baseball family and our kids have done baseball for a long time since I don't know how old are five years, I guess five years old when they started and I was thinking about how much time that we have invested in that sport. And I also thought about you know, you're gonna invest in something with your kids. So you get to pick as the parent, you get to pick what that time investment looks like. And as y'all know, with my oldest son, we sort of made some bad choices there as a family, and we let him invest in tons of video game time. And that was a huge mistake. And you can read a whole lot more about that on our on our website. But last night, when I was sitting there, I was so thankful that our kids have chosen to invest with our help, of course, they've chosen to invest their time and their childhood and all these memories that we have of all these fun games and all the people that we have met in the lifelong friends that they have made all through the years. And even when we are out and about at the grocery store, or just doing certain errands we will run into the kids in our community that have played with our kids, maybe not in the last couple years, but even from five and six years ago. And it's just really fun, I think for the kids to feel really bonded and connected. So with sports, you get a whole lot more than just some fun baseball games, in this case baseball, but you get this benefit of having the investment pay off. And again, I'm just so glad that we're not investing all of our time in the teenage virtual world, that we've chosen to do things differently. And I also had a mom, talk with me about her 13 year old daughter getting a phone. And the reason why I'm bringing this up today, I have that conversation with parents a lot. But the reason why I'm bringing it up today is because when I asked the mom, you know why? What was the reason or the trigger for this? Like, does your daughter really need a phone? And she said, Yes, she needs a phone, because all her friends are on Snapchat. And this just happened yesterday. And I thought I'm so excited that we have our guest today because we're going to talk about Snapchat. And so I did have a really good conversation with her. And again, it unfolded that she her reasoning for getting this phone at the age of 13 when she said that that was the legal age to get it. And I reminded her and I want to remind everyone out there again, and we've we've talked about this a while back. But I just want to remind you if you haven't heard this before, that 13 is not the legal age relate to get a phone. So when you get a phone, you have to sign a contract. And that age is really 18. But the reason why parents talk a lot about 13. And they think that 13 somehow is the age of maturity for social media. And I'm not laughing about this. But I'm I'm so sad because it's a myth that's out there. What I want to explain about this really quickly, is first of all, 13 is not the internet age of adulthood. Most parents believe this, because the sites will say you have to be 13 in order to be on them or to get the app. So 13 is again it's not it's not the age of maturity. The age requirement is listed on social media platforms as a requirement for the Coppa act. And so what that is it cotpa was an age that was set in 1998 before social media was ever invented four years before Facebook seven years before the iPhone came out, and it is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. And this is why the age of 13 is list In all of these apps, this has nothing to do with your child's maturity. What it is, is a law that says that no online site can collect data and personal information from children under the age of 13, without a parent's consent. So again, the law had nothing to do with the age of maturity. I used to think this, I used to think that oh is 13 that says on here that you'd be 13, in order to play certain video games even. But on the social media applications where you see this age, it has nothing to do with maturity, there's not a big committee out there somewhere that decided that 13 was the best age for a smartphone. So I just want you all to be really clear on that. And we're going to put the law in the link down in the show notes. But the the summary of the ruling, I'll read the summary really quick COPPA imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under the age of 13. And they will get fined a huge fine if they are in violation of this. So if your child goes on and says that they are 13, they put in a false birthday, for example, then they are immune from any penalty of the law that the companies are. So what that means is that they can't police whether or not your child is lying about their age, but I just want parents out there to understand that 13 has nothing to do with the age and maturity for social media. And if you are a seasoned parent, meaning you have raised a few children, and you're kind of in that stage of life, where you have some years behind you and some miles behind you, you know that no 13 year old is mature enough for a smartphone or for any of these social media apps. And you also know that no matter what you do, you you can't force maturity on a child to all of a sudden make them more mature than they really are. So I am so excited to have our guest today because I know that he has so much to say about this topic. We're very honored to bring back one of our most popular guests from our podcast. Welcome, Officer Gomez.

Officer Gomez:

Well, thanks for having me. And I'm glad to be here. Many

Melanie Hempe:

of our listeners know who you are. But for those who are new, give us just a little bit of background. And the reason why a lot of people know who you are is your Facebook page. And you have a lot of followers and you just tell it like it is and we are so ready as a culture to get that message. And to hear that tell it like it is add to we that's why you have so many followers. And that's why we love you so much. But give us a little bit of a background for the new folks that are listening.

Officer Gomez:

Okay, so I have a background in engineering, I was a electronics engineer prior to becoming law enforcement. I became law enforcement that kind of gravitated towards school resource officer. So I've been in law enforcement for 13 years 10 of those I've been a school resource officer at little schools, big schools and in between schools. I've helped educate kids parents. I've also been part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which goes after predators and I've learned a lot from growing up for predators from taking reports from actual kids who are in trouble from the internet, some of whom are being sextortion some who are having suicidal problems, everything in between I take lots of reports I go to lots of houses where the kids are out having meltdowns because their electronics are getting taken away. So my background is engineering I just make notes of patterns and I try to share those patterns with parents so that they can make better decisions in their kids electronic life and their parenting life because I'm at the school all day I see what parenting does and the effects it has on kids.

Melanie Hempe:

We love having you on because you are sort of our eyes and ears out there your boots on the ground right you're you're on the other side there have been in our kids lives and in their day during the time of day that parents really aren't there so you get to see a whole nother side and I think it's always super valuable to get intel from people like you and and thank you so much for your job in the schools and what a huge calling that is I I think that'd be so overwhelming. And I'm so thankful for people like you even the resource officer positions out there and anyone out there who's who's really on the frontlines trying to help kids and I love so much that you are so passionate about sharing the truth and really trying to say let's save kids. So our topic today. Like I said this week when this parent asked me about Snapchat she wasn't really asking me she was just saying that this was the reason why she was getting her 13 year old phone because all All her friends were on Snapchat. So can you start first by just explaining what Snapchat is, I think there's a lot of parents who still are not clear about what it is.

Officer Gomez:

So Snapchat is probably the most popular application for a social media for kids. And what makes it popular, there's a few features that make it popular. Number one is the messages back and forth between users automatically delete. Number two feature that makes it super popular is the face mapping technology. So you can put filters where you are throwing up, or you have big eyes, or some strange thing that they can make little movie clips with, and share with each other streaks. Kids love this big feature, that's the streaks kids. Basically, you send a picture back and forth to somebody every day. And the longer you do that, every day you do it, you get one point. So you get kids who have streaked each other for two or three years, and they have these huge streaks, that becomes highly addictive to them to make sure they keep their streaks going.

Melanie Hempe:

Yeah, let me just say about that really quick that streak technology is a very big persuasive design element in Snapchat. And what that means is, the tech companies are obviously out there trying to keep our kids eyeballs on their apps, right. And so one way to do that is to give rewards. And so what you're talking about is when they when they Snapchat every day, on a regular basis, without breaking the streak, right without skipping a day. They get rewards and the rewards are just, they're just little emojis. Right? I mean, it's, it's fascinating what kids will do for an emoji. Ward. Yeah, and the

Officer Gomez:

rewards are basically they can show everybody that they have 600 Snap streak, which means they're super faithful people to each other. The other reward now they've, they've kind of grouped it into your best friends, which is who use snap streak the most with. And so there's all kinds of little teeny things that kids are just after, and they get their little dopamine hit from doing these things. The streaks are so addictive that I've been, unfortunately had to take some kids to jail. And on the way to jail, they want me to write down their username and password so that somebody else can keep your streaks going,

Melanie Hempe:

boy is that a teenage brain at work, right? They're not thinking about the most important thing right in front of them, like they're going to jail, they're thinking about saving their streaks. That's crazy,

Officer Gomez:

very addictive. On Snapchat, it's it's the hidden technology that makes it super popular. So if a kid were to snatch a phone from from a parent were to snatch a phone from a kid mid sentence, they would get one sentence. And that's it, they don't get everything else that's happening, because it automatically deletes. The other feature they have is their 24 hour storyline. So you post a picture of what you're doing. And it deletes in 24 hours. So it stays current and relevant. And you don't have a lot of frill to go back through like you would on Facebook, Instagram and those kinds of things.

Melanie Hempe:

That also makes you want to have to do it all the time, right? Because it's not like you can can go back and see what people are doing. If you don't post it in 24 hours, whatever, it's gone. And then now I gotta do it again. Right?

Officer Gomez:

Correct. Now you got to do it again, you there is a way to post from your gallery. But it puts a big, you know, from camera roll. So everybody knows it's not a current picture. Some of the other features that kids like is if a phone if a phone is taken by a parent, when the kid logs into a different phone, or secondary phone, backup phone, or whatever it is, it logs the parent out of the phone that they have. So there's no way for them to see incoming messages or anything that's happening. Purposely has multiple security features that are helpful for kids versus parents.

Melanie Hempe:

Right. So it's basically working against the parents all the way around.

Officer Gomez:

Absolutely. And parents don't understand this. I get parents who say well, I downloaded chap, Snapchat, and I'm friends with my kids so I can see what they're doing. Well, here's another feature most people don't know about is the kids can actually mute the parents. So even though the parents can see that the kids are on Snapchat, and they can kind of see what they're doing on the parent. The kid just goes to the user, mutes the parent, and the parent sees what the kids want them to see exactly. And nothing more.

Melanie Hempe:

Wow. Oh, you know what? I think there's so many people that just heard you say that, that didn't know that. I mean that that may change some lives right there. So you're being filtered out as a parent so you think that you're keeping up with what your kids are doing on it even though I think that's even a myth because I don't know after one day how you can really keep up with what they're doing. But but not only that is you think you are but then you're actually getting muted. So you're only seeing parts and pieces. Wow. Yeah, you're seeing exactly

Officer Gomez:

what If your kid wants you to see, and one of the other features I put on my Facebook page all the time that surprises parents is that there's a secret vault built into Snapchat. And parents have no idea about the secret vault. And even if they try and get in, they don't have the pin because kids usually have that passcode it was something the parents can't get.

Melanie Hempe:

Right. So they don't even know to even know what they don't know. They don't they don't know there's a secret vault, they don't know they're getting muted. Even for the parents who are trying really hard. Isn't that sad? Even the parents who are really trying to stay on top of it, they're not they're not staying on top of it.

Officer Gomez:

It's tough, because parents are basically giving private time to adults with their kids.

Melanie Hempe:

Yeah, talk about that. I know. You also said it was easy to find in by drugs through Snapchat, how does that work?

Officer Gomez:

Well, through drugs that my bigger schools that I've worked at the kids post drugs for sale on their 24 hour timeline, or the local drug dealer will put on their 24 hour timeline. So the kids can see active drugs for sale right now. And usually the drug dealers will deliver right to the school playground, anywhere, and it's super easy.

Melanie Hempe:

And they can't get caught because it just keeps disappearing.

Officer Gomez:

It keeps disappearing and are all the law enforcement agencies are very behind just like the parents are, they're just way behind on what's going on. So they don't even try the law enforcement in general does not like change. They like to do things the same way all the time, because that's what keeps them kind of safe. This new world we have to adapt and overcome these things.

Melanie Hempe:

Yeah, well, social media changes all the time. And all these apps change all the time. But what Snapchat can do today is very different from what it could do, you know, even four or five years ago, right? So they, they keep changing algorithms, they keep changing all the functions, but our kids know exactly what it is because kids are pretty good with change. You know, all they do is just tell each other Oh, this is a new thing. Okay. And by lunchtime, they all know how to do it.

Officer Gomez:

Yes, I tell parents kids have 24/7 tech support

Melanie Hempe:

each other? Yes. And they get

Officer Gomez:

tips from all over the world, how to circumvent things, how to use things against parents. And they do it well, because it's their whole life. They are addicted.

Melanie Hempe:

Yeah, it's what they live for. And it's where they're finding all their identity. Now, the other one thing here that you talked about, is the ability to send and hide nudes. Explain how this works.

Officer Gomez:

Okay. So when you send when when a young person sends a new to another young person, when that person gets it, if they screenshot it, it will tell the sending person that they got it,

Melanie Hempe:

so they can screenshot it, they can. So Okay, listen to this parents, if you're, if your child doesn't, and you can think, Okay, well, they made a very bad judgment call and that one split second of time. And they did that, but I'm okay because because it's going to delete but know, what you're saying is you can actually take a screenshot, and now the person knows that you took a screenshot, right? That's fascinating technology, they know that you actually took a screen shot at the pitcher that you just sent. But then now what happens now now you've got the new that's on, that's permanent.

Officer Gomez:

That's everywhere, and it stops being traded around everything. And these news can come back to bite kids, you know, 10 years later, 20 years later, 30 years later, once it's on the internet, it's not coming back. It's like trying to unscramble an egg to get it back. It's going to show up again and again and again.

Melanie Hempe:

So, okay, just to review really quick. So Snapchat is the most popular one of the most, if not the most popular apps that kids are using, because they can delete their post, they can use filters that are really fun. So that draws them in keeping up their streaks. That keeps them all glued to this thing because they don't want to break you know, they don't want to skip it and then have to start all over. They can hide a lot information from parents, they have a 24 hour storyline. They're logging in Oh, yeah. To a secondary phone in order to log parents out basically, or do just purposely keep them from seeing things because they can mute parents. They have secret vaults and Snapchat, it's easy to find and buy drugs. They're on Snapchat, they can send nudes I don't see anything good yet about Snapchat, I cannot figure out why unless parents like me like myself years ago with my oldest son just aren't educated. I think the main reason that parents do this is so their kids won't be left out. I'm assuming that's what you hear from parents. Let's talk about why parents risk this.

Officer Gomez:

So in my this is an opinion as I have no numbers for it. But I ask lots of parents all the time I put polls up on my Facebook page. Peer pressure for parents right there they feel peer pressure just like kids feel peripheral feel peer pressure. Everybody else has it and they feel bad having their kid be the only one that's not having it and the kid will come home complaining about their The only one that doesn't have it, the teachers are using Snapchat for school programs, which, unfortunately is true. And the parents will opt out. The second reason they have Snapchat is because parents use it as a babysitting tool, right? I mean, old school days, a parent would put in Barney 127 times for kids to watch the halfwords on hours. Now it's eight, you can give a kid a phone with Snapchat, and you won't hear a peep out of them for you know, the next seven or eight hours, they are just stuck to the screen.

Melanie Hempe:

It just is endless novel images. That's what's drawing them in. So no offense, we're not trying to throw parents under the bus. But what you're saying is, from your perspective and your view, being there, boots on the ground on the front lines, you see that parents really, really just get a lot of pressure from each other. And they use it as a babysitting tool. And I know from all the work I do, that parents are exhausted, it's so hard to manage everything that comes at them. Right. So they're tired of arguing with their kids about it. And I'm sure, Officer Gomez, you have heard the best arguments from the most argumentative teenagers and that we've ever heard, right? That you've a lot of experience, listening to how teenagers can state their case and make their arguments like a good attorney. And it is exhausting.

Officer Gomez:

It is them. The kids make some great arguments. But I mean, one of the biggest ones is fear of missing out, right? The kids say, Hey, I'm missing out on everything that's happening at my school, I'm missing out on everything that's happening in my neighborhood. Nobody hangs out with me, because I don't know what's happening. I don't get included in the all these groups because I don't know what's happening. That is what they use against parents. And to some degree, they're right. But you know, in another aspect is, they're not missing out because they're outside doing things. They're meeting people that are seeing the whole world they live in. Where's everybody on phones isn't seeing anything?

Melanie Hempe:

Yeah, and your point, there is it just, Oh, I'm just so glad you said that. Because when I look at our kids, you know, the younger two, and even my daughter, so really, our last three kids did not have social media, they did not have Snapchat. And one of the biggest arguments that we heard all the way through their school years, they were rising seniors now was that they weren't going to have any friends, they're going to be left out. And if I could just convince the parents that are listening, that is a myth. That is not true. Kids who do not have social media find very healthy ways to be social. They have lots of friends, one of my kids this summer, just last two weeks ago planned for a group to go to a local concert here. And he bought 16 tickets, because he could buy him in blocks of eight. And so he bought two blocks of eight. And I asked him, you know, are you gonna have any trouble finding enough kids to go with you? And he said, Oh, no, no, no, I've got about 20 people that want to go, I only have 16 tickets. So we're gonna see what happens. And I'm like, wow, how many kids really know, 20 kids that would actually go with them to a concert. You know, I don't think many kids do. But our kids know, so many kids through all their different activities that they do, they are so social, they are not left out. And they have really become the social leaders planning activities. And they're doing it all without a smartphone, they pick up the phone, they call their friends. And that's why they have good friends, because they're picking up the phone. And they're calling them they're meeting them out. They're constantly having friends over at our house. So this fear of missing out. I know that it's a big fear for parents. In fact, we panic when we think that our kids are going to get left out of something. But like we have said before, it's okay for your kids to get left out of some things, you've got to decide what you want them included in and you have to decide as their parent coach, what you want them to be left out of. And I think even after this few minutes here discussing Snapchat, I definitely don't want my kids included in Snapchat, I never will. And I think that parents need to realize that you take two paths, there's I mean, you take one of two paths. Either you go down the virtual path, and your kids get included in all the stuff that you really don't want them included because it doesn't let me with your values or you go, you know, door number two, which doesn't include all that. And it does line up with your values and they have tons of friends. So it's really Who do you want to get left out from right. I think that's what we have to evaluate.

Officer Gomez:

Absolutely. Absolutely. What the family values thing would always tell parents is how many hours a week do you spend teaching your kids family values? versus how much hours a week a kid learn traveling? Have you from Snapchat, if they're learning family values from fat from Snapchat for five to 10 hours a day, versus you have a one hour conversation with them once a week, I know where their values are going to be.

Melanie Hempe:

Yeah, you can't help it. And it's just like, with my kids and their baseball, like I said, In the beginning of the podcasts, you know, I just look at this investment, you're making an investment, they're going to be better baseball, because they play a lot of baseball, period. I mean, it's just wherever you put your time, is, who you become. And it's how you values play out. So you're exactly right, if they are spending more time with their parents, they're gonna have those values. And I'm not saying that kids don't need to have friends they do. But parents out there, you've got to realize that they are not capable, they are not mature enough to pick these friends. And once you open that door to Snapchat, and these other apps that are out there, you've lost every ability to be able to manage that and to to guide them. Because you've opened the door. Now they're there, they're out. They're out in the virtual world, seeing and doing all the things that what officer Gomez just said, we can't we think we're seeing it, and we we can't see it. I think the other reason why parents allow Snapchat is simply because they don't understand it, I've got to believe that that's one of the biggest reasons they just don't understand. They don't know what they don't know. So they're scared of their kids being left out. I get that. But I also think they don't know what Snapchat is.

Officer Gomez:

Yeah, it's tough. And, you know, unless you pick it up and use it yourself, it's tough to know. And one of the things I suggest to parents is get a little parent group together, download Snapchat, Snapchat each other, look at the different things that you can see, look at how things work, and understand how it works before you give it to your kid. So that you know what's going on. But many parents don't have time for that. And you know, they some parents don't even want to know what's going on. It's like, Hey, I'm just gonna put my blinders on. Everybody else has it, they're living, we're just going to take the risk.

Melanie Hempe:

Yeah. And I had that happen. Three years ago, one of the friends that we have, the mom sat down with me, and she was she had her her iPhone. And she said, Okay, I want you to show me how to change all these settings. So I can be more diligent with monitoring what my son is doing. And so, you know, I kind of kind of roll my eyes because you know where this is going, right? Because anytime you try to lock down on iPhone, it just doesn't work, you have to just realize that when you hand over an iPhone or any kind of smartphone, it's just, they're gonna beat you at this game. They're going to find out how to get around everything. But I was trying to show her how to do the passwords and how to set the restriction code and all the different layers that you can do. And I'm not kidding. Officer Gomez, it was 30 seconds, it was 30 seconds into this conversation. And she just looked at me and she said, I can't do I can't do that. I give up. I give up. And I was so sad, because that is what's happening. I think parents are throwing the towel in. And hope for a mom, I mean, there's no way i i can manage it. You know, I know that I know my limits. I know I can't manage. I did terrible job with my first child, which is why we're doing it very different. And but I'm here to tell you that when you take these elements out of their life, when they are teenagers, when they're going through these middle school and high school years, your life is so much easier, their life is so much healthier, they do not need it in high school, they just flat don't need it, they're going to have plenty of friends. It is amazing what happens when you take that crutch away, like Snapchat, and then they start filling your time with in person gatherings and get togethers with their friends because they do need friends. They do need to belong, but you get to decide who they belong to. And by handing this over, you know, your right parents. They they're exhausted. They don't. They don't know. What about all the apps out there that say that they filter the other apps, you know, the programs that say they filter? I mean, is there a program out there that really can filter what's happening on Snapchat? I don't think there is

Officer Gomez:

there's no one that can filter when it happens on Snapchat. There's a few programs out there that will upload screenshots every five seconds of what's going on on Snapchat, but they can't filter it.

Melanie Hempe:

You're they're gonna see it and then you're just gonna see what they saw. Yep. So then stop them from seeing it

Officer Gomez:

correct. I mean, you'll see what they saw and then you'll you're you're doing a lot of firefighting instead of prevention ahead of time so that they don't see it at all.

Melanie Hempe:

You know, the damage is already done at that point in my book. I mean, if they're if they're gonna I mean, I'm glad that maybe a parent gets to see what their kids saw, but, but the damage is already done. They've already seen it.

Officer Gomez:

Yes. And what a lot of parents don't understand is every time the phone does an update, whether it's Android or Apple, all these third party apps have to do catching up, right, because they're not working conjunction with each other, these third party apps, every time there's an update, now, they have to rewrite their software to be able to monitor. And there's always holes in the software. And there's always updates that need to be made. So you're not catching things. And some monitoring applications are great this week. But next week after the update to the phone, they're not so great, and they have this missing or that missing. And it's just a never ending battle that you're going to lose, right, you're going to lose that as a parent.

Melanie Hempe:

Now, there's no way that you can win that battle. I remember years ago, trying to figure this all out, we used to have workshops, where we had parents that would come to the workshops, they would bring their phones, and even some of them would bring their kids phones and we would all sit there and tell each other how to lock everything down and how to set the parental controls. And then the next week, we would meet again, and everybody would come back. And they would say, well, he got out of that. And he got out of that. And he got out of that. And she got out of that. And so now we're like, oh, and that's when I quit doing those workshops, because I realized that there is no way what you just said is really true. There's no way we can stay up with that. And so it doesn't mean that we get discouraged and throw the towel in and just hand our kids all this stuff. What it means is that we hit the pause button, we say, No, we're going to, we're going to stick to a gap phone, we're going to stick to a top text phone, you don't need all this technology. And we always say that if you want to have like an Instagram account for your family, or a Facebook group or something, go ahead and do that. And you know, the Smith family Instagram, and it's on mom's phone, and every now and then if the kids want to look at it, they can look at it under your supervision. And that's all they need. They do not need their own apps. And I hope that everybody's still remembering what we talked about the beginning of the show. And if you have this idea in your head that 13 is the best age for an app. Or maybe you think Well, that's what the law says that they have to be 13. So when they're 13, somehow they deserve this or they're mature enough, or that's not true. That is based on very, very wrong information. It's not true. But But officer Gomez, we know that there. There's a bunch of biases, like you just alluded to that you know that parents have their blind spots, right. And one of the biggest biases out there is what's called an anchoring bias. And what that bias is, it means that the first time you hear something is the thing that you're probably gonna stick with the most, because it's very hard to undo something after you hear it for the first time. So there's a lot of parents out there so that for the first time, I mean, what they heard was 13. Right, they heard that. So that's in their brain, and they think 13 is when their kids should be getting this. But that's an anchoring bias. It's false. It's not true. It's just really hard to an do false information. And that's what we're trying to do at ScreenStrong. What you're trying to do is educate parents and but part of the reason why we have such a hard time with that, and I speak from my own experience, personally, with my own biases that I have as well, we all have them. But it's really hard because the first time you do something or hear something or read something is what you tend to believe. The other thing that you were talking about in your Facebook group was the other thing that parents are struggling with is they don't want their kids to be different from other kids. So they don't want them to get left out. But they also don't want them to be different. The other thing you said that they trust their kids, right? So you know, the whole not my kids. So talk about really why we really don't need to trust teenagers like we love them, and we need to love them dearly. But talk about this idea of trust. How does that fit in? Because I could say to you, Officer Gomez, I could say why I trust my 13 year old she's never lies to me and I trust what she's doing. And then what do you say to the parent when you know on the other end of the game that she's not doing trustworthy things?

Officer Gomez:

Just once you start Snapchat, you are getting desensitized, you're getting desensitized, to pornography, to bullying, to sex, to drugs to all kinds of things. And they spend so much time there that after a while it's hardly even your kid anymore if you're not spending all this time, but I get lots of parents that I trust my kid or I want my kid to have privacy there. I don't want to, you know, interject myself overly and I don't want to be an overbearing parent. But this is a safety thing. It's not a trust. It's not a privacy. It's a safety. And there are millions of adults that are waiting for parents to give young children phones because the predators know that those phones are in entryway into a kid's bedroom where they can groom them. You know, it takes hours, weeks, sometimes even groomers will use it over years, they'll groom kids, but at some point that kid will be ready to go against what their parents taught them because they think they know better they think they know, they're smarter, they have a better grasp on social media, and they don't.

Melanie Hempe:

How does a predator use Snapchat to groom a kid

Officer Gomez:

on Snapchat though, usually they will private message them and a lot of predators, I always tell parents that, you know, five out of five predators recommend Snapchat, wow. But those just started discussion with them, right. And usually the discussion starts going to, they get an emotional tie to the kid right away, you know, either the delicate hey, look, nobody understands you, like I do, or the predator will use themselves, hey, look, I have a hard life, or depressed all the time and talking to you makes me feel better. You're doing a great job of helping the world because I feel better now that you're talking to me, they make the kid feel valuable, they make them feel like they're needed. And then they just start grooming through those Snapchat messages. And those messages are automatically deleted, the kid doesn't have to do anything more, the predator doesn't have to do anything more. The Predator sends a message the kid reads it, it deletes and there's you don't have to manually delete, it just automatically deletes. So predators, no, they're safe. From a law enforcement perspective. I can't even subpoena that information from Snapchat, so that when I get a subpoena, to try and get that information on predator, the private messages back and forth, I don't get that I get group chats, I get some IP addresses, I get some geo locations, but I don't get those messages back and forth. So that is beyond law enforcement, even that Snapchat has gone. So not only are they against parents, they're also against law enforcement being able to track down a kid that has been kidnapped or being sextortion. And or being sex trafficked. It's often

Melanie Hempe:

see there could be a predator, snapping your kid for two months. And as a parent, and you like what you're saying, as law enforcement officer, there's no way you can even see what all that was. So all these influences can be happening in your kids lives and in you may be the most, you know, well meaning parent out there. But if the police can't even get to it, there's no way you're gonna get to it. That's unbelievable. So is it just gone off the planet or isn't really there and they just aren't giving it to you when you subpoena? This isn't really literally gone.

Officer Gomez:

So it's gone from Snapchat, the predators have it steal it, but Snapchat does not Snapchat does not keep that information. So and that's the way they get her on. Police says, hey, look, we give you everything we have, they literally don't have all the pictures back and forth. The bad guys do not have the bad guys, because they save it. They save it. So on Snapchat, and a lot of kids have a false security of hey, all know if they screenshot my naked picture. And they didn't because it didn't send me a notification. But what the bad guys do is they use a second phone and just take a picture of the first phone. It doesn't send back a message. They're also a third party applications that save all the Snapchat pictures as well without letting the sender know that it was recorded.

Melanie Hempe:

And I've been thinking out over the years of a lot of different things. But you know what? I didn't even think about the fact that you can take a second phone, of course you can and just take a picture of what's on the first one.

Officer Gomez:

Yep, super simple. That's the easy, easy way to do it. Most of

Melanie Hempe:

these hacks really are really simple. I think parents feel a sense of confidence because they feel like their kid will never figure stuff out. When really, it's some of the most simple things out there. I know one parent told me that she finally figured out how our kids were getting around their router. Their I think it was a Disney circle or something that they had gotten. And the kid had just simply unplugged it. I mean, really, how brutal how brilliant. Simple is that? Can you throw in here? I don't know if you can or not. But just from your experience, can you throw in a couple ways that kids work around? I won't say hack because parents don't like to think their kids are hackers. But they are but um how do they work around these Parental Control kind of restrictions and passwords and, and limits and stuff that parents tried to set what are some of the most basic things just in general like for an iPhone.

Officer Gomez:

So some of the most basic things, the number one easiest thing to get around is the sleep time where parents put the phone to go off at 9pm and turn on at 7am The kids would just change the timezone as the night goes on. So the timezone on their phone never shows 9pm So they can use their phone forever. The time restrictions on you can use Instagram for an hour so the kids will delete Instagram at the 58 minute mark redownload it and the timer starts again. The kids will also hand their phone to a parent to enter the password so that they can download something and the kid has screen record on their phone so that they can see everything the parent puts in. Now Apple tried to stop that but there's third party programs that will still screen record so that they can see the password.

Melanie Hempe:

What does that mean real quick screen record they're actually recording I like a video what's happening on the screen, like a

Officer Gomez:

video of everything that's going on on the screen. So that's an on screen record to go to the app, they want to download mom, dad, and it's usually a legitimate app, I need this math program for school, the parents like looks at it. Okay, that looks good. And they enter the password in so that the kid can download it. While the kid has recorded that password, right and there's Geo, they can change their, their locations on the GPS, they can install new software, which they call it jailbreaking the phone, which means install new software that the parent can't know what's happening. On Android phones, you can actually start the phone in soft in safe mode, so that you get to pick what comes on on the phone, and parent monitors easily to check off that it's not going to start super easy. And we'll have that problem with the Chromebooks at the school. The kids figure out how ways to get around all our parental controls that we have at the school on school systems. And parents always think well, you guys have to guarantee that this is safe. No, we can't guarantee that those Chromebooks are safe, they are not safe. And kids figure out ways around them all day long.

Melanie Hempe:

What's an example of that the same kinds of things as far as how they get around the Chromebook,

Officer Gomez:

same kind of things. They can start the Chromebook in safe mode, they can also VPN through the school firewall. So now they're not using the school firewall, which has our filters, they can, for example, I know sometimes when you go in through Yahoo, or a different browser that the school doesn't use, too, then you don't have those things to check. They also send each other links through your messenger that allows them to get through the school system. So there's all kinds of ways around these things. The only way you're really going to fix this is parental monitoring, you have to you have to look over the good shoulder, you have to know what's happening. Make sure they're using computers and screens in a central location in the house. No electronics in the bedroom, ever for any reason.

Melanie Hempe:

And for those y'all who don't know, a VPN is a virtual private network. And it's a another server, in essence, right? So you can jump out of where you are and go over to a whole nother server and do whatever you want over there. And I know many schools that just they try to block the VPN, but there are new ones every day and they can't block on.

Officer Gomez:

Yeah, another interesting one I saw was that when the parents shut off the router at night, one of the kids actually hotspot it into the internet through mom's flip phone that was on her bedside table.

Melanie Hempe:

So the moral of story is, you're not going to be able to chase that fly around the room. I mean, there's no way you're, you're used, I think every parent just needs to put that to rest in their brain that if you allow internet device that you just have to assume that your kid is going to be able to get to everything on the internet. I know one thing that I heard was through using Google Translate. So are you familiar with with that method of actually going through Google Translate, because Google Translate is actually a VPN, and they can use it as a VPN. But you can also type in certain words, whatever words and sexual words or anything that your monitor, maybe would would, you know, stop on your end. But if it comes in a different language, then it will go to that those same adult sites, for example, but you weren't searching porn, you weren't saying the word porn? You were using different words in different languages,

Officer Gomez:

right? So kids, kids will also use corn for porn. They'll use band for gun that with all the filters, don't catch it.

Melanie Hempe:

But then it still comes up. Yep. Yeah, this is what I'm so frustrated about all these parental control apps that everybody puts all their faith in. And it's so frustrating because it they don't work. And I'm not saying that you shouldn't have parental control apps, but or services, but they just don't work. And I have found just exactly what you're saying that CO viewing being present is really the only way to make this work. And we what we ended up doing on our kids laptops, they have, we have Microsoft families installed, it's free. Every server has some kind of free thing installed. And what we do is we just don't allow anything, but only we go back and allow only the sites that we want them to access. And that does help a lot. Instead of saying, well, here, you're gonna have the whole internet and then we're going to not let you go to this, this and this, we say, No, we're gonna lock down the internet. And we're only going to let you have these 10 sites for your school if you need a site. That's okay, let us know and we'll approve it. But that seems to work a lot better. I agree with you totally that CO viewing is the only way so how is that? How do you feel about that being like to over protecting or over controlling or all these other things that I hear from parents? They don't want to be the helicopter parent?

Officer Gomez:

No, I tell them you have to do everything you can to be safe. So imagine safety in a car. If you Make sure that your kids have seatbelts on does that make them safe in a car? No, it makes them safer. But you're not completely safe. You, you got to worry about speed, you got to worry about distractions, you have to worry about friends in the car, you have to worry about other drivers. Are you ever going to catch all of them? No, but the ones you do know how to catch. Let's catch them. Let's put the seatbelt on every time. Let's create a three second following distance. We know kids are still going to be unsafe in cars. But we want to be an example. And we want them to use the safety measures we know how to use which are easy, yes, they'll still find ways to be dangerous. But let's minimize those ways as much as possible.

Melanie Hempe:

Right, you're minimizing the risk. And that is your job as a parent, by the way, your job is not to put as many risks and temptations in front of your kids and then see if that will help them overcome the risk and temptations. And we know from our medical studies, that the closer you are to a temptation, the more likely you are to succumb to that temptation, what our job as parents, it should be to keep our kids far away from that, because keeping them close to it. This is a big myth that parents think, Well, I gotta learn how to use it one day? Well, yes, they do. And they will when their brain is more mature. I'm sure officer Gomez that you you have not had this same exact problem with parents abusing their phone the way kids abuse their phone, because parents are adults. And their brain has been, you know, obviously more mature, and they don't do certain things on the internet. Now some do. And we do have criminals out there that do of course, but the average adult would never think to do the thing that a kid thinks to do. And that's because of their wisdom and maturity. And kids are not there yet. So we keep thinking we're going to train them to use it well. And I think that's a big pothole. For parents. It's quicksand I do, I think you need to talk about it a lot. Like we do with our kids, they know all about the internet. They know all about social media, they know all about Snapchat, they know all about violent video again. But they're they just don't use them. But it doesn't mean that they don't know about it. You see, that difference is really important. And I think you are making it even more clear that there's not a lot that parents can do to make all this stuff safe. And and like I said, I would just add that you by giving it to your kids, you're not helping them learn to use it better. Would you agree with that or not?

Officer Gomez:

Absolutely. I agree with it. Right? It's like, again, are you going to train your kid to drive well enough that they don't need their seat belt? No, you're not. You're not going to train them and pass this, you're not going to drive this the same way. Right? Hey, well, if I supervise their drug use, they won't get out of control and don't know how to use drugs.

Melanie Hempe:

That's a great example. I mean, why don't we start teaching them how to real joints right now in middle school. So they'll learn how to do that? Well, that's a really bad idea, right? I mean, they can still learn about joy. I mean, we still talk about, but we're not going to give them access to the thing that's hurting them. Just like we don't give kids the keys to the car. Even when they're 18 to go drive an 18 Wheeler around the big interstate, that's a really bad idea. They need a lot more maturity for that. It's a good tool, but not for kids. And honestly, I don't see anything good about Snapchat, I am so glad that you came on today to help us understand this a little bit more I know that Snapchat leads to and research really suggests that it does lead to a lot of anxiety and depression, because they get so immersed in it. And obviously, you just pointed out all these other reasons why they had poor sleep habits. We didn't even talk about that. As we wrap up, though, we've got to mention that you were very clear on phones not being any screens really in the bedroom because kids aren't sleeping enough. And we know when they don't get enough sleep. Their guard goes down. And I imagine would you agree, I don't know. predators come out at night still. I mean, is that really when kids are little, a little sleep deprived? Isn't that a good way to get to him?

Officer Gomez:

It's a good way to get to him anytime. But what the real advantage of nighttime is, the parents aren't there to watch and know what's happening

Melanie Hempe:

to know what's going on. And then you've got the body image issues, the cyber bullying that you talked about, you know, I hate this fear of missing out I wish we would just all get together and say you know what, we want our kids to miss out of the stuff that's happening on social media and it's okay if they miss out and we have really personally in our home, have trained our kids really to be different and to be okay with that. And and as we wrap up, talk a minute about the one post where you were talking about values. I love what you said because it lines up perfectly with the ScreenStrong code and everything that we believe that you gotta teach your kids to respect to have gratitude, to not bully in this family to do a lot of family activity. But the last thing you said was to teach them not to be offended. I love That statement that you may talk about that a minute, a huge detriment

Officer Gomez:

to society is that everybody is offended by everything and kids at the school. They've learned through social media through parents to be offended by everything. And they almost look around and have this little checklist. Whenever anybody says anything, can I be offended? Can I be offended? Now, when I get a kid in my room who feels like they're being bullied or offended? I always ask them well, who controls your thoughts and emotions? And they're always say, Well, I do. I'm like, Well, no, if you're going home, and you're crying, and you're upset, and you're thinking about this other person all day, they're controlling your thoughts and emotions. And I would say you need to control your own thoughts and emotions. And you can stand up for things without being offended by him. A lot of people mix those two up. So you can't just let somebody say something, you have to be offended in order to make act. No, you don't. You can stand up for yourself, you can stand up for your values for what's right, without being offended. And oh, my goodness, many people are offended in every way, shape, and form. And they feel like, they feel like the more offended they are, the more right they are, which one has nothing to do with the other.

Melanie Hempe:

Wow, that's fascinating. It's that victim mentality, right?

Officer Gomez:

Yep. And in our the rule in our house, whenever we take in bonus kids, or you know, high risk kids is we cannot be offended by mere mortals. And we just start from there, and we start building a value system that doesn't allow for being offended.

Melanie Hempe:

Wow, that's just blowing my mind. I mean, what a concept that is fabulous. And that is so laced into our screen strong, I can keep going back to that, but But it's laced into our core values, because we want to teach our kids how to stand out how to be different, how to develop life skills, and build their autonomy, that way how to prioritize these authentic relationships and build healthy families and just you're gonna have to eliminate the toxic screens in order to do it. I don't see how you can do it. When you have this in their face all day long. I just don't see how it works. I don't think you can have Snapchat, I don't think you can have all these things, and still have a healthy balance with with everything else. I don't think that you balance toxic things or activities are that we balanced the good things. How can we end today, I want to end on a positive note. So can you share just for the parents listening? Okay, so officer Gomez, we have people out there that my heart just goes out to my heart is so heavy for parents that are right in the middle of this, let's say they have a 13 or 14 year old and they've been on Snapchat for a year and the parents are getting ready to go through the detox. We have a detox on our site. We have a wonderful parent course on our site now that parents can get a small group together, they can all learn this stuff together. They can build their tribe and and I want to always say there's hope. But what do you say the parent who is devastated right now she's just listening, or the dad is listening. And they're like, oh, my gosh, we had no idea. We've let our 13 year old have snapchat we let but now they believe a 15 year old and she's been on Snapchat for two years. And we're seeing all these warning signs and all these symptoms. What do we do? How can you encourage them?

Officer Gomez:

Number one, don't look at as long journey we got to take one step at a time, right? It's a big long staircase, one step today, right, just take one step forward, let's fix this. Let's fix it as a family. Let's take it as an opportunity to better our family to better our family values. And to basically take advantage of this wonderful family that you have, you just have to correct a few things. And that's like everything else in life. I mean, there's some big challenges, you got to start one step at a time. And if you do this and do it correctly, you will win. And you'll come out at better stronger family, you'll teach your kids how to be better parents in the end. Because this is not that your kid is broke this is that your family just needs a correction. And many people have done it many people have done it successfully, and have come out on top of things on the other end because I mean overcoming challenges that's that's part of life. This is a challenge just like everything else. Let's let's face it head on. Let's figure this out as a family as if as a team. And let's teach our kids some some values of some fixing. So that when they are challenged by whatever is next in your grandkids lives are the great grandkids lives. They know how to overcome a challenge. You are going to set the example by fixing this problem

Melanie Hempe:

and just providing this incredible leadership for your kids. Well, I'm gonna put you on the spot. Do you believe it's fine for kids to go through high school without social media?

Officer Gomez:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Parents will say that they don't want their kids to grow up without technology because then they'll be slower at jobs and stuff where they need technology. And that is totally untrue. Kids can learn and adapt so quickly that they will figure out technology. I mean, look at me, I didn't grow up with any technology and I will out Snapchat almost anybody and I don't even use it all that often. Yeah, I would rather parents teach kids skills like you know, being kind of being gracious. You know some men dinners at school, because those are the ones that are going to be much harder for them to learn at the job if they don't have them, versus learning how to use a screen is much easier later on down the road.

Melanie Hempe:

Well, and it only takes a few minutes to learn how to use any of this stuff. So I and I love like what you just alluded to, and you said, without technology, our kids today everybody's grown up with technology and technology is fine. But there are the certain elements like we talked about today, social media apps, especially even the violent video games and things out there that are not helping our kids at all. And thank you for reassuring us that it is okay for kids to grow up. Without this. They do not need those pieces of technology. We are not a screen free organization. We believe that kids could have screens for certain things that they need to use in school, as long as things are co viewed or you watch a family movie night on a Saturday all that's fine. But they do not need a smartphone. They do not need social media, and they certainly do not need Snapchat. It's just not necessary. And we've got to start turning the tide on that myth in your work is helping everyone do that, you know, sometime, Officer Gomez, we just need one other person to say it's okay. So thank you for saying it's okay.

Officer Gomez:

Today, you're welcome. And I promise it is okay. And kids will be just fine without it.

Melanie Hempe:

And they'll even be better or they'll have they'll be healthy. Or thank you so much for taking this time. It always goes by so quickly. But we appreciate it so much. And I just want to thank you in advance here for all the lives that you're going to help change and the confidence that you gave our audience today. Thank you so much for coming.

Officer Gomez:

You're very welcome. Thanks for having me, as always.

Melanie Hempe:

So I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. listening today, our parent online course, like I said, is available that is one call to action that you can do if you're fired up and you're ready to get your tribe and your community going. Go find some friends to do this course with you, your kids do not need 100 friends, they only need a few other friends that are going to be ScreenStrong with them, you might try the 30 Day Detox summer is a perfect time to do it, take a vacation, come home and just don't give them their screens back. We do have our community. Our Facebook group is ScreenStrong families. And like I keep saying we are working on a online forum for you to get even more information from more experts go ahead and make the switch and get the gab phone. We love the gap phone because it's very basic. It's very simple. Just talk and text that takes care of anything that your kids might need us our code strong and you'll get a discount. What's your homework? Um, I think your homework today is to get rid of Snapchat. And if you want to try to remove it, that's another discussion because that's hard to do. Let me tell you it is hard to remove these these apps sometime we think we're deleting them. But they are still in the phone and we just could you delete the the app doesn't mean it's all totally deleted, your kid can get get right back into their account is what I mean. The next part of your homework is to make a list of a few friends that would enjoy this podcast and actually give him a call. You know, don't just text him just call him and say you know, I just listened to this podcast today. You may be really interested in this. We can't do this mission with out yet and we can't start this movement and continue this movement without you in the podcast is a perfect way to get other people on board. And the final thing I want to remind you to do is invite some of your kids over to your house this week and just make pizza or do something easy with them have a game night. Keep your eye on the ball. Your your job as a parent coach is to get to know your kids friends, give them more in person time with their friends. And you might have to start doing that in the very beginning because it's really hard for them to do that initially. Remember, we've got your back and we are here to help you. So until next time, stand up for your kids stand out from the crowd. Don't forget to get rid of Snapchat and stay strong.