Many conservative and traditional Catholic parents know the dangers of kids having cell phones.  These dangers include inappropriate images and bullying. But most good Catholic parents somehow still think their children are beyond the reach of predators because they have relatively-obedient children.  In this article, you’re going see why that’s you need to put away that pipe-dream forever.

Ex-SEAL Shawn Ryan now has over 2.5M subscribers on his YouTube channel alone, not to mention many more listeners on other forums.  He’s a conservative podcaster who recently became a Christian.  A year ago, he twice had on his show a 30 year old man named Ryan Montgomery who is known as the world’s “#1 Ethical Hacker.”  Specifically, the name of that two-part series was: “#1 Ethical Hacker Who Hunts Child Predators.”

The language was too dark and filthy for YouTube, for they read many of the predators’ pick-up lines as found on the dark web on those two podcasts.  Thus, I had to listen to both of these on Rumble. Because the language was so shocking, I decided not to link the Rumble shows here.  I don’t blame Ryan or Ryan for putting those up, but it’s too rough for a priest to link on his site.  In any case, you can go find them if you want, but you may not sleep for a night.

Still, I will list some stats I recently learned from that predator-catcher’s podcast.  Mr. Montgomery gave the official sources for his stats if you want to go hear it around 1:10:00:

  • 1 in 5 US teens have received an unwanted sexual-solicitation online.
  • 13 years old is the average age of finding an explicit website.
  • 75% of children are willing to share personal information with strangers.
  • 50% of sexual exploitation incidents of children begin online (not in real life.)
  • 27% of online child exploitation cases involved a perpetrator who was a family member or acquaintance.

Again, I know many traditional parents think this applies to other families, not them. But I might humbly ask you re-read the above stats while now thinking how it could happen to your own children.

You see, many good Catholic parents out there think they have a handle on their kids’ digital lives.  I can tell you as a priest:  You parents do not have a as great of a handle on your kids’ online lives as much as you believe.  Even in the Traditional Latin Mass world.  Most kids (even those who otherwise live morally upstanding lives) can’t help themselves from hacking your phone or borrowing their friends’ phones, even if you have a no-cell rule for them.  Of course, the no-cell rule should still be your baseline starting rule for anyone under 18.   (This is because anything less stringent than that would be irresponsible in light of how many child predators are finding good Christian kids online.) But the point is that even with the most stringent of rules, you need to check up on your kids.

For example, I know a very good family on the East Coast whose twelve year old daughter once met “a boy” in a pro-life forum on Roblox.  They chatted, and chatted, and chatted for weeks, and he told her how much he cared for a handicapped friend in a wheelchair.  Eventually, the boy convinced the girl I knew that she “was the only one who understood him.”  Of course, she believed this, since it was in a pro-life forum.  She wanted to help him.  Thus, when he asked her to meet her in a 7-11 without her parents, she agreed, thinking she was doing something really good.  Her mother (a good friend of mine) found her Roblox account just in nick of time, just at the last moment when her daughter was headed out the door to go to 7-11.  My friend stopped her daughter and called the police (as well as at least one three-letter agency, as they’re just inside the beltway outside DC.)  They found that 12 year old “pro-life boy” was actually an older predator ready to kidnap my friend’s daughter.

Do you see why even “the safest forums” are not actually safe?  Do you see why even “the best kids” are not safe?  That twelve year-old girl (who I know in real life) actually believed she was meeting a pro-life kid with whom she could talk about very good topics. (Many teens protest they need such a phone for work or homework.  Perhaps there’s some truth to that,  but I didn’t get a smart phone til I was 35 years old, even after I graduated one of the most prestigious Universities on the East Coast.  I held many jobs even before entering seminary with a flip phone, so it can be done.)

The only exception I might grant to a no-cell rule for your children is the Gabb Phone (or similar competitor.) One mainstream outlet described the limitations: “There’s no internet access, no social media, and no apps or games, but it does feature GPS tracking as well as optional kid-safe music streaming (meaning no explicit lyrics). The standard Gabb subscription doesn’t allow users to send and receive images or group texts, but that can be added for an additional fee with the MMS add-on.”  That means no text-pix between friends, no “sexts” on the Gabb phone… no SnapChat, no Roblox, etc.

About a year ago, a young Catholic mother (different from the gal a few paragraphs up) explained to me that if they didn’t allow their older teens to have a Gabb phone, their kids would simply to borrow friends’ smart phones, and they would be in worse danger.  I get it:  Refusing a dumb phone to a child might very well force them to borrow a smart phone that contains many more dangers.  Thus, my suggestion to Catholic families is this:  Definitely no smart phone for anyone under 18.  Consider a Gabb phone for kids who can use it responsibly.  But tell them scary stories, like the Beltway story of the would-be-7-11-kidnapping above.  Yes, sometimes you need to scare your kids to get them to understand which type of crafty and destructive predators are out there.