A 12-year-old's text message wound up triggering a parental warning at a Poughkeepsie supermarket.

It's getting increasingly difficult to be a parent in today's digital world. Keeping your child safe has become an impossible task now that the entire world is available at their fingertips.

As parents of a 12-year-old, my wife and I have realized that the majority of our time is devoted to monitoring Internet usage and keeping up with always-changing online threats. Having frank discussions about all of the ways your phone can get you into trouble has become a common occurrence in our house.

Google Maps
Google Maps

Dangerous Image Detected

Even with all of the time we devote to staying on top of our son's Internet usage, we still need lots of assistance. Luckily, Apple has parental settings built into the iPhone that you can turn on which makes the job of keeping your child safe so much easier.

Not only can I monitor what apps and websites my child visits, but Apple also allows me to limit the amount of time he can access different apps. There are even filters that watch over your child's online interactions and can intercede if things turn dangerous.

We recently discovered just how good those filters work when my son tried to share a "dangerous" image.


Supermarket Snapshot Triggers Security Risk

While at the grocery store last week my son snapped a picture and attempted to text it to someone. Instead of sending the message, his phone displayed a warning that the image appeared to be lewd and inappropriate.

The warning said that the image "could be sensitive" and asked if my son was sure he wanted to send the photo, explaining the danger of sharing "naked photos and videos". The message assured him that it wasn't his fault, but that by sending the photo, the recipient could then send it to others.

My son immediately burst into laughter and raced to show me the message. It turns out that the photo he wanted to send wasn't inappropriate at all.

Canva/A. Boris
Canva/A. Boris

The picture he was trying to send was of a butternut squash. To be fair, the reason he was sharing it was because it did look a bit naughty and, as anyone who has raised a 12-year-old knows, there's nothing that's funnier than a vegetable that resembles a body part.

Lesson Learned

While we both had a good laugh over the false alarm, we did learn a valuable lesson about how my son's phone can help keep him safe.  Even after ignoring the warning, his phone responded with a second page that asked him if he was really sure he wanted to share the image. It included some encouraging words and prompted him to reach out to a trusted adult. It also offered links to helpful information about making responsible life choices.

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What's interesting is that I never received an alert on my phone, even after my son eventually texted the photo. Apple is big on personal privacy, and although they will catch photos like this, ultimately they leave it to the user to make their own decisions.

Because of this funny incident, we learned that although we have all of these safety nets in place, it's still our job to keep our son out of danger. It's our job to keep a dialogue open with him and give him the tools to make good decisions.

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