By Dom Cioffi
My son has officially discovered social media.
While visiting friends over the holidays, my son was introduced to the wonders of texting by one of his buddies. Initially I was happy for him (I figured it could only help with his suspect writing skills), but before I knew it, he had written himself right into a corner.
We had purchased him an iPad Mini last Christmas, but until recently it was only used to play 99 cent games from the App Store. However, all that changed once he learned to use his new email address to send iMessages.
Thankfully I’m savvy enough to have linked his email address to mine so anytime he gets a text or email, I’m alerted (he’s only ten so I don’t feel bad about the invasion of privacy).
So about a week ago I noticed some activity via his email address. One of his buddies had written him a fairly innocuous text: “Are you there?”
No sooner had I noticed the communication when my ingenious son replied, “Yes I’m here, turd-head.”
Now, I’ve seen my son’s schoolwork writing, but this was the first time I had seen him engage in a friend-to-friend conversation online and I was admittedly excited (other than the unnecessary descriptive noun, of course).
My brain quickly fantasized about my son texting me sports scores while I’m at work or making plans to see a summer blockbuster with his friends. Maybe he’d become fairly adept at the activity and end up a writer like his father.
As these thoughts were flowing through my head, his friend sent another text. This one queried, “What are you doing, turd-monkey?”
I chuckled at the depths of adolescent humor when my son responded, “My turd-gorilla just ate your turd-monkey.”
Now, I’m not a big fan of the potty mouth, but I’ve learned as a parent that you have to pick your battles, otherwise you’ll spent every minute of the day in conflict with your child.
So I decided to let things slide and ignored the temptation to say anything to him about inappropriate talk while online.
That turned out to be a very bad decision on my part.
The next morning as I was relaxing on the couch having a cup of coffee, I noticed my son’s iPad sitting on the table next to me. I casually reached over and grabbed it and pulled up his text conversation, wondering if it had progressed into anything of substance.
Initially I was impressed by the amount of writing that the two boys had engaged in (although the liberal use of emoticons was slightly annoying). But then my eyes focused on a singular swear word. And no sooner had I seen one swear word when another popped up… and then another… and then another.
Pretty soon I was reading a cesspool of vulgarity. It was like two prisoners trying to verbally outdo each other.
My wife noticed me looking intently at our son’s iPad and inquired as to what I was finding so interesting. I didn’t let on. Every mother wants to believe their child is a little angel, but one reading of this diatribe and she would have burst into flames.
Now, I’m not going to repeat the specific pontifications that my son spewed forth, but I’m quite certain that he covered the gamut of vulgarities available to the average ten-year-old.
When my son finally woke up and ventured downstairs, I casually asked about his texting conversation from the night before.
His eyes grew wide as he looked at his iPad sitting on my lap. I could tell that his little brain was putting together the unfortunate span of events that were about to culminate in an epic dad lecture.
I took a deep breath and began: “Listen, buddy, I get it. I was ten years old once and I swore with my friends too. But you have to understand that online conversations are different and you have to be conscious that anything you write can and will be seen by other people. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
His shoulders slunk down as his eyes gazed forward with immense guilt. And then he calmly uttered, “Sorry, Dad. I guess the stress of the holidays just got to me.”
Stress also happens to be a key factor in this week’s feature, “Foxcatcher,” a strange story about two brothers and one of the world’s wealthiest men.
Based on the true story of Olympic gold medalists Mark and Dave Schultz, “Foxcatcher” highlights the influence of money over judgment.
Check this one out if you enjoy the uneasy feeling that accompanies true crime drama. The fact that this story is ripped from real life makes it all the more compelling and intriguing to watch.
But while the performances from Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are all top notch, the dark storyline may leave some viewers feeling adrift.
Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a very heavy and involved drama that highlights a truly bizarre situation.
An unnerving “B+” for “Foxcatcher.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.