Congressman Mark Foley’s instant messaging behavior should serve as a reminder to us all that even those in power can succumb to dark, perverted behavior.
It has been all over the media, but in case you hadn’t heard, it was reported last week that Mr. Foley of Florida was sending inappropriate and sexually explicit emails and instant messages to pages — under-age pages.
I can’t even imagine what must have gone through the minds of these kids. To have received a message from a superior — one who was responsible for helping to run our government — that was sexually suggestive must have been like a slap in the face. Foley wrote to one page that he would like to remove their clothing. Another message encouraged them to get comfortable by lounging around in their boxers.
“What do I do?” must have run across their minds. “Do I play along because if I don’t I could lose my job.” No kid should be making such decisions, and no adult should be putting them in that situation to begin with.
It’s truly sad that one could be troubled enough to delve into such acts — and with a child no less! But when you look at the heart of the matter, all this should remind us that the image of the dirty old man isn’t so dirty on the outside anymore. He’s not the one wearing the trenchcoat behind the bushes waiting to flash passersby. He’s the one in the suit, and he has money and power. He’s in our government, our schools, even our families. And he’s using a method of communication that often times gets overlooked by parents.
Parents should keep an eye on their kid’s cell phone bill to learn of how much they’re using instant messaging or texting. Some might say that asking to see their buddy list or what has been sent and received is an invasion of privacy. I say that you’re the parent and therefore responsible for the safety and well-being of your child. So you have the right to see whatever it is they do to ensure that they’re safe and that you’re doing your job. I hated hearing this as a kid, but now I see the wisdom of, “My house, my rules.”
- Kids are very much in tune with the latest in technology. Parents need to be as well.
- Keep in mind that these messages are being logged on some server hosted by your telecommunications provider. So if you or your child does get a disturbing message, you have some evidence to refer to. (Some of the messages Foley sent go back to 2003, and they’re just now coming to the surface.)
- Encourage your child (the earlier the better!) to come to you whenever something like this occurs. And if they do tell you, be sure they know that you know it’s not their fault.