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Episode 79: Safety Issues Parents Need to be Aware of When it Comes to Their Teens with Deputy Gomez

Brief summary of show:

How can kids be safer at school? And what do we need to do as parents to help them?

Joining me for this conversation is Deputy Dave Gomez, who has 13 years of law enforcement experience with 10 of those years being served as a school resource officer in Idaho. Gomez has become a national expert on juveniles and their use of social media in their daily lives.

Gomez has used his knowledge to assist the Idaho Crimes Against Children Task Force, as well as provide information to many police departments and community agencies, on internet predators. Gomez has operated multiple undercover social media accounts to arrest predators and track down missing children in his jurisdiction and beyond.

Gomez educates kids, parents, educators, and law enforcement on the latest technology and trends regarding social media.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [3:25] Why Deputy Gomez is so passionate about keeping our kids safe

  • [5:00] The biggest safety issues Deputy Gomez sees in schools

  • [8:15] What age kids really need cell phones at

  • [10:00] The kind of privacy kids should have on their phones

  • [21:50] Does having no phones at school really work?

  • [25:55] The biggest safety issues parents need to be aware of when it comes to their teens

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Deputy Gomez

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Are cellphones really the big problem with teenagers today? Top tips on cell phones, and what's really going on with teens today, straight from an expert, a school resource officer.

[00:00:13] Natalie: Hi everyone. How are you? I hope you're having a joy filled week and working on some of the topics we've been discussing here lately. You know, I talk a lot about positive mindset, improving our relationships and parenting strategies. It almost feels like in today's world, we are set up for failure. When it comes to our kids and parenting, we want them to be included in friend groups, activities.

[00:00:36] And of course the fun that life has to offer. And yet, so many of those things. Seem to be dangerous today, we open a big, scary door when we give them access to technology, for instance. And yet we know that they really need technology to function and find success in our world. So there's no perfect scenario.

[00:00:57] There's no perfect way to do things, but. I firmly believe that by educating ourselves about the threats and believe me, I know this takes time in research that we are doing what we need to do to help our kids and our young adults. And I wanna help you with that. I spent years on a technology beat and parenting beat in newsrooms across the country.

[00:01:18] I was shocked by some of what I learned as a reporter. We can't ignore. What's out there. If we give our kids technology specifically cell phones right now, or even computers and iPads, basically access to the internet, then we have to be aware of what they are going to see and what they are gonna be faced with.

[00:01:39] And yes. Even good kids can and will be tempted by what's out there. My guest is not afraid to speak the truth and he does so daily as a school resource officer that works with kids and parents. He has a social media following because of his blunt real talk that parents appreciate. Officer David Gomez shares information learned from working with 23.

[00:02:03] Students in a high school environment every day, he is a school resource officer, commonly known as an SRO who takes what he learns on the job and he teaches it then to parents and kids. So we're gonna talk today about cell phones and beyond that other issues that he sees every day that we, as parents need to know about.

[00:02:24] You can't afford to miss this discussion. So before we get started, will you just take a moment and share this podcast with a friend? My hope is that by doing these interviews, we are sharing important information that will help other people, other parents in their journey. Let's get started.

[00:02:42] Officer Gomez, thanks for taking the time uh, to be with me today and for helping us out and parenting topics. I started reading some of your social media posts about six months ago, and I love your direct approach. Very real way to talk to parents.

[00:02:58] Why are you passionate about what you do? And then we wanna get into this topic of cell phones and.

[00:03:03] Deputy Gomez: So I'm very passionate. When I became a school resource officer at a middle school, I noticed that the kids that were having problems, a lot of 'em it's parenting issues that cause the problems with the kids at school. So in order for me to help the kids at school, which quickly become my kids, because my job as a school resource officer is to build a relationship with the kids.

[00:03:24] Yeah. So I care about them. When I see them struggling, we can help them somewhat at school. Really most of the help has to come from parents at home. And so I started educating parents, you know, one by one, then pretty soon I started having classes. And in years and years of education, I found that, you know, the politically correct approach wasn't working.

[00:03:43] So I started being very direct it helps that I carry a taser all the time in case you know, of issues, but the direct approach was the best and nobody else was doing it. So. Direct approach to parents because that's what helps the kids. The most, you are

[00:03:59] Natalie: not shy at all in the way you speak to parents.

[00:04:02] Give me some examples. So for those who haven't followed you yet the types of things that you talk about.

[00:04:08] Deputy Gomez: So I talk about cell phones. I talk about sex. I talk about drugs. I talk about addictions. Vaping is huge right now. I talk about the things that parents do that affect their kids greatly.

[00:04:21] Right? And I always, I mean, one of my sayings is if you wanna build a better kid, you gotta be a better adult. Hmm.

[00:04:27] Natalie: Yeah. Well, that's what we talk about a lot on this podcast is how can we be better as adults, as people and as

[00:04:33] parents. So let's, let's talk about the biggest issues you find and then let, and then we can talk about some solutions.

[00:04:39] We're not gonna be politically correct today. So if people get angry, I'm sorry, you don't have to listen, but you are going to learn something today. Uh, When you listen,

[00:04:46] what are the biggest issues that you see with the kids that you work with

[00:04:51] Deputy Gomez: in. So right now, bar none is cell phones are the biggest issue.

[00:04:55] They're the biggest issue at home. And they're the biggest issue at school. Why? Any large number of reasons. We have distractions at school, which are, are drama induced. So if we have some drama that starts in the morning um, and that could be easy as a, as a smasher pass list. For people who don't know what the smasher pass list is, somebody makes a fake Instagram account.

[00:05:17] and smash or pass smash means to have sex with pass means. No, thank you. Mm. So they'll put a picture of a boy or girl on the fake Instagram account and everybody starts commenting smash or pass. Oh no. Well, now this happens at the school. Now everybody wants to know if they're on the smash or pass list or if they did get on the list.

[00:05:35] Now, how many people are smashing or passing 'em. You can't focus for 60 minute class on that. You have to take breaks to go to the bathroom. You have to look underneath because you need to know what the latest drama is. Yeah. And there's tons of those lists. There's tons of fake things that draw attention.

[00:05:50] And once those happen, even if the kid doesn't have their phone in hand, they're thinking about that. Hey yeah, I can't wait till break to see what those things are happening. We have those kind of drama induced things by cell phones at school. We also have nude photographs being passed around at school.

[00:06:03] And I tell parents, Hey, look, kids are passing around nude photographs. And they're like, okay. Yeah, I can see that. But then when I tell 'em the numbers, they have a hard time believing. I tell parents it's 75, 80% of high school girls by 11th grade are sending out their nude photos. By middle school, which is eighth grade, about 13 or 14 years old.

[00:06:22] It's about 50% of the kids have already sent out their nude photos. Wow.

[00:06:26] Natalie: That's a scary number.

[00:06:28] Deputy Gomez: Yeah. It's a scary number and parents say, okay, not my kid, not my kid, not my kid. And then I said, well, why not your kid? Well, I've raised them different, you know, have you, and if you let your kid have a cell phone for five, ten, fifteen hours a.

[00:06:44] They're on social media, social, media's raising your kid. You're no longer raising your kid. You're gonna wake up one day and you're gonna have a person in your house that you don't know. Yeah. And I get parents that tell me, Hey look, my 14, 15 year old boy, girl, I don't even know who they are anymore. Yeah.

[00:06:59] What do I do? Spend time with them.

[00:07:01] Natalie: Yeah, it, it happens so fast with, with my three kids. They start asking like around 10, some even younger, they start asking because their friends start getting phones earlier and earlier and earlier and often I don't know what you find, but I find that it's the parent that wants their kid to have the phone so they can track them more so than the kid even will utilize the phone.

[00:07:24] They just wanna be able to get ahold of their child anytime they want.

[00:07:28] Deputy Gomez: Yes. At the younger ages specifically, that's number one, they want to be able to, to track their kids. They want to get ahold of 'em many times mm-hmm and they want to not be bothered. Right. It's like putting the Barney tape in. You give 'em a cell phone and now they are entertained for four or five hours.

[00:07:44] You don't have to be a parent.

[00:07:46] Natalie: Okay. So when, when we're talking about responsible parenting, what do you think? , I'm a little nervous to ask. This is a good age where they need. Do we ever really need a phone, but they need it for socialization or for contacting people, or what do you think is the responsible

[00:08:02] Deputy Gomez: age?

[00:08:03] So here's what I tell parents. A couple of things, a smartphone is different than like a little tracking watch, right? Some of the Gimo watches are not the same as having a smartphone mm-hmm smartphones is whatever parent wants to give their kid. It's what every kid has. I say minimum of age 13. Okay. Um, That's that's the minimum age for any kind of social media mm-hmm and be comfortable that your kid is gonna look up pornography.

[00:08:30] Right. And many parents will, oh, I'm not gonna be comfortable ever. Okay. Then don't give 'em a cell phone because they will look it up whenever a social media post hits and it's got some sexual position name. Your kid's gonna look it up. Yeah. When somebody starts passing

[00:08:42] videos around, when somebody mentions something on TV, they're gonna look it up.

[00:08:46] And many kids are starting to get addicted to pornography at a very young age because they don't have impulse control their brains. Aren't fully developed. So I always say minimum age of 13 minimum, right? If you wait till 16, 17, 18, even better, but minimum 13 and be comfortable with them looking at pornography, which means you have to have some good conversations with kids about their pornography.

[00:09:07] Yeah. Hey son, daughter, I know you're gonna be. Somebody's gonna share a video with you. You're gonna see a video. Let's talk about the difference between pornography and real life relationships, right? And you have to explain very well that pornography is entertainment mm-hmm and is meant to be addictive.

[00:09:24] But then what we see at the schools is that they get addicted to pornography. Now they have such a hard time with real relationships because it's not the same as pornography that they're seeing on social. Yeah.

[00:09:35] Natalie: Yeah, absolutely. And as soon as they hear, as you mentioned, as soon as they hear a word, they don't know, they have immediate access to finding it, it sexual or anything else.

[00:09:44] It's that's, that's Google. Let's just look for it. And then who knows, what's going to come up. do you think that That we should just completely limit the ability for them to like, if they do have a smartphone shutting it down, having limits, following them, you know, is there privacy when it comes to their, their cell phone, like a journal or something like that?

[00:10:05] Deputy Gomez: There should be no privacy when it comes to, to their cell phones, because kids have a very easy way to change their lives forever. Be it sending out an naked picture, talking to adults, they don't know that could kidnap them, talking to people who are going to change their. Thoughts and mental process to where it is no longer your family values in your kid anymore.

[00:10:29] Yeah. Yeah. Um, One naked picture can change their lives forever, right? Yeah. From, you know, future job issues to some kids commit suicide when their job, when their naked picture gets out, that kind of stigma is, is going away where kids now unfortunately is like, you know, Hey, big deal. My picture's out.

[00:10:47] Somebody else's picture will be out in the next few minutes and that's true. Whereas when pictures first started going out, people would kill themselves. But yes, we should limit. I always ask parents how much private time do you want your 13 year old to have with an unknown adult stranger?

[00:11:02] Natalie: Yeah. And that's what they have with the phone.

[00:11:04] Yep. Okay. So, so here's the problem that I often see you open the door. You give them the phone, you know, say 10, 11, and then by 13, they really not that you know of have, they haven't done anything wrong, but it's. Punishing them when you take something away that you've given, so maybe you've given the phone or you've allowed it in the bedroom or something like that.

[00:11:25] Do you just take it away and say, sorry, I learned something new now you can't have it anymore. Do you have the discussions? What do you

[00:11:30] Deputy Gomez: recommend? Definitely have the discussions. I mean, I, you should have the, my best advice would be to have the discussions before you give the phone. If you've given the phone and you have a lot of things, you're not gonna just wanna rip it out of their hands.

[00:11:44] Let's have some discussions and you can control the phone very, very well. So you can have some discussions and say, Hey, look, this is why we are gonna put the controls on the phone that we are gonna put on them. Yeah. My wife and I, we take in high risk teens at our house. And one of the ways we use to build their self worth is homework is okay, you get your homework done.

[00:12:04] It's gonna build your self worth. We use a cell phone to kind of the, kind of the carrot. But we start discussing with them. Hey, look, I know you've had unlimited access to the phone in this house. We're gonna start you off at two hours a day. Right. And if they have, you know, we always tell 'em, if they have 15 minutes left at 5:00 PM, we'll give 'em an extra half hour.

[00:12:23] Mm. It helps 'em budget the time. And then as we start doing better with grades and homework, we start adding, but we always discuss why we're doing what we're doing. This is why we're doing it. This is why I care about you. This is, you know, how much addiction there is. Let's and, and we leave it up for discussion.

[00:12:40] So, Hey, you know, do you want to discuss, do you have anything to say? And, and sometimes they'll come up with a good plan, something that we're gonna modify something they want to do to help, but yeah. Have a discussion. You don't have to rip it outta their hands and it's a family, right? You should, you should talk with your family as family members and take their input, but ultimately you should be smarter than your kids and understand.

[00:13:02] Natalie: It seems as if kids today. And when I say kids, I mean, teenagers too. I should be more clear , but it seems as if there's more of a feeling of I have a right to this versus I have earned this or it's it's the carrot, as you said,

[00:13:18] Deputy Gomez: Yes, they do feel that way. And a lot of that is the parenting involved in it.

[00:13:22] Right. Some parents, right from the GetGo. It's like, I'm gonna let you borrow my phone. I'm gonna look at that phone anytime I want. Versus some parents like, oh, here's your phone and I'm gonna respect your privacy because I don't want you to become sneaky this, that, or the other. But. I've talked to many, many, many parents who have discovered something in their teens.

[00:13:41] Either they look in their secret, Snapchat vault or something like that, and they come back and they say, officer Gomez, I wish I would've paid more attention sooner. I could have kept this from becoming catastrophe.


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[00:15:06] Deputy Gomez: Yeah. Versus I've had almost no parents say. I wish I would've given my kid more privacy as they were RA raised.

[00:15:13] I've

[00:15:13] Natalie: never heard anybody say that. So tell me some more of the um, the secrets I feel, I feel as if you know them all, you just mentioned a secret Snapchat vault. What are some of these other things we as parents need to open our eyes about that we need to start looking at. If they're kids,

[00:15:30] teenagers, whomever, have the phones.

[00:15:32] Deputy Gomez: So there's a secret Snapchat vault that has pass coded. So in order to get into the secret Snapchat vault, you have to have their passcode and it's usually different than whatever their phone is. If you come across that and it's pass coded, have your kid give you the passcode. If they go into their bedroom, if they take a day before they give you the passcode, that means they're gonna go try the passcode a couple times and delete all the pictures before they give you the passcode.

[00:15:53] Okay. When kids are chatting, whether it's Instagram, whether it's Facebook, whether it's, you should know who they're chatting with right. Until they're, you know, 16, 17. Okay. There's some adults you might not know, you know, somebody, you know, an English teacher or something might have some kind of chat, not my favorite, but it does happen.

[00:16:09] Those things are gonna happen. Know who your kids are chatting with. The other secrets are, you know, Instagram, a lot of kids have multiple accounts. They have the one account for their parents, and then they have their spam accounts is what they call it, which is a username that's not associated with their real name.

[00:16:24] So it's hard for parents to look up. They also have hidden devices at the school. Kids can get secondary devices all day long. As parents, when you upgrade your kid's phone, sometimes you, you know, a lot of times now they have you turn in their other phone, but. Parents will upgrade and a kid keeps a phone.

[00:16:40] Now they can let their friend borrow it. And on a cell phone with no service, you can do everything, a cell phone, which service can do. Yeah, so many kids have secondary phones. Some of 'em have, you know, three or four phones, iPads, old, anything that they can connect online with. So if their phone gets taken, if it gets taken at school, they have a backup and all they have to do is log into Snapchat, log into Instagram.

[00:17:02] Log into TikTok and everything's back to what, the way it

[00:17:04] Natalie: was. Yeah. And if you take the phone away, say they they've been disciplined somehow they could log into any of those accounts on a friend's device.

[00:17:12] Deputy Gomez: super easy. And, and the way you combat that is talking through it as a family, building respect in the family, so that they'll respect your rules and why you're doing things.

[00:17:22] And I tell parents, Hey look, the, the, the best punishment you can have for your kid. Only works. If you build it up, is son, daughter I'm disappointed in you, right. If that works, then you're running your family. Correct? What if it doesn't work then you need to build, you need to work on your family, right?

[00:17:40] You need to start building the respect up in your family. Yeah. So that kids respect you, you respect them. And they respect each other because ultimately on Friday night, when they're out with their friends and somebody's gonna do some illegal shenanigans or something, they're gonna, get'em in trouble.

[00:17:54] They're gonna think, Hey, look, my family would be really disappointed in me if I get in trouble for this. Yeah. Yeah. And there are kids that do that. They're still gonna make mistakes, but they're gonna make smaller mistakes.

[00:18:03] Natalie: So many parents, I, I find today and, and I know I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm on with three. I get it.

[00:18:09] We want our kids to be our friends, but I have found, and I have a feeling you're also going to say that building these relationships includes rules and that respect comes when they know you love them enough to have rules and to have boundaries. And that's, that's hard in a society that's telling us your kids need to be your.

[00:18:30] Deputy Gomez: Yes. And free range kids. That's the other word that people use? I'm bill, I'm raising a free range kid. They know how to take care of themselves. No, they don't. They're not adults. They need guidance from parents. They need boundaries and I'm telling you, we take kids in our home that have never had boundaries and they have no self worth.

[00:18:47] So anything that comes along, they fall for right. You have to build up the self worth in your kids. You know, what are the family values in your home? What is the self worth? And at school, I always ask kids, Hey, what are you worth? And some parents get mad at me for asking that and I don't care. What do they say?

[00:19:03] Yeah. They say, well, that's the incorrect you're worth. Whatever. Just because you exist, everybody is worth the same. No, they're not right. And so I said, no, you need to build up your self worth. You need to build up your confidence. I was tell, Hey, twos, don't marry tens and tens. Don't marry twos. Where are.

[00:19:18] Natalie: I find it interesting. And just the sheer numbers of your social media speak loudly to parents wanting more information. They want the guidance they want, they want the help. Were you surprised at how your social media took off the way that it has? And, and tell me a little bit more and I know people are gonna wanna know how do I follow you because you post some pretty bold.

[00:19:42] Deputy Gomez: Yeah, so you can follow me by going to at deputy Gomez. And one of the reasons I'm, I, I do bold things is because as a police officer, and I'm a real police officer, I go to domestic fights. I go to calls where a parent says, Hey, my 10 year old, just busted out our window because we took Fortnite away from 'em.

[00:20:03] Mm. I go to calls where, where parents aren't controlling kids. And I have a limited time to change. Their life for the good of the kid, right? Yeah. Not for the good of the family for the good of the kid. That kid is only gonna get better. If the parents get better. Right. If I go to a runaway call, whenever I take a runaway report, I always go to the parents and I say, Hey, look, here's the five reasons kids, runaway, parents, parents, parents, parents, and parents.

[00:20:28] And I tell 'em, I'm gonna find your kid. I always do. But when I bring him back, what's gonna change. Well, officer Gomez, you're gonna scare them. No, whatever I have is not as scary as whatever's in that house. So I found that being, I, I have a limited time. I have to be bold. I have to be very upfront and tell parents, this is the fix.

[00:20:48] Yeah. And it's always gonna be parents. Same thing with anybody who's in the back of my car, whether a kid or, or parent. If I have somebody in the back of my car, I'm taking 'em to jail. I'll ask 'em. Hey, what got you in the back of my car? Was it bad choices or bad luck? If they say bad luck, Hey, I'll pick you up.

[00:21:02] Same time, same place next. Yep. Real same thing with parents. Well, phone's the devil that ruined my kid. No. You were the parent. You can handle this. There's plenty of parents that do just fine with cell phones. There's plenty of schools that do just fine with cell phones, right? Our school decided to go to no cell phones.

[00:21:18] It is night and day different than when we allowed cell phones. So tell

[00:21:22] Natalie: me about that.

[00:21:23] Your, your school decided no cell phones. They have 'em in their backpacks. They don't bring them. What, how do things look different with this new policy at your school? And you're, this is high

[00:21:32] Deputy Gomez: school too, right? This is high school too.

[00:21:34] Yeah. Last year when we had cell phones available, even the teachers were using 'em as a carrot for work here, do this Google packet. You can have the rest of the class after you're done to play on your cell phones. So kids would do that. Parents or teachers would disengage kids would disengage walking down the hallways.

[00:21:50] Nobody talked to each other, cuz they're catching up on the latest drama. So we decided as a school and, and it had to be kind of the teacher's decision. We said, Hey, we're gonna go to no cell phones, but every teacher has to buy into this. No teacher can allow cell. Because if one teacher allows it, it throws the whole system out mm-hmm

[00:22:07] So we went to no cell phones, they can have 'em in their backpack because the biggest problem that parents have with not having a kid with a cell phone is they, Hey, what if there's a shooting? What if there's an emergency? I want my kid to be able to contact me. I totally get that. And I would want that for my kid as well.

[00:22:22] So we incorporated that into our cell phone policy. They can have 'em in their backpacks and their pockets wherever, but if we see it or hear it, it's gonna be ours for the day. Mm-hmm. And we have a step ladder system the first time. We'll give it back to you at the end of the day, the second time your parent has to get it.

[00:22:37] The third time parent has to get it and we have in school suspension or lunch detention, or those kind of things set up. The difference is incredible. I'm starting to tell parents, you pick cell phones or education in school. You can't both. Wow.

[00:22:52] Natalie: So this has just been this year. How do the kids feel?

[00:22:57] Deputy Gomez: The kids at first, you know, the first two days they were really upset about it.

[00:23:00] Hey, I have to check this, that or the other. But as we went, the kids are, are, are much more comfortable now because now they know nobody's texting about them during class, nobody's posting social media. They're not even missing anything because they know all their friends have this same rule. They don't have cell phones.

[00:23:16] It also allows them to talk to each other face to face. It allows them to engage with the teachers better. So now teachers can show kids that they care about 'em instead of being a babysitting surface service that, Hey, you know, teachers are here to teach you this and then play on your cell phone. Now teachers are engaged for the whole class.

[00:23:33] Now teachers know the students. And the students have actually, you know, there's a few who still fighting us on it, but the majority of the students like having the no cell phone policy.

[00:23:43] Natalie: Yeah. And if, if everybody's on the same playing field, they're not worried somebody's looking or posting or whatever.

[00:23:49] All kids are the same. Are you getting pretty good compliance though? Or do they sneak to the bathroom to check their phones and post?