My poor neglected blog. I promise my schedule has been totally packed. I found it hard to blog when too many thoughts were needed for the serious planning for the TASL Library and Literacy Forum and for AASL’s Affiliate Assembly and AASL’s Legislation Committee meetings at ALA Annual. To make the situation worse, my principal was called away leaving the Reading Specialist and me in charge of checking out teachers for the end of school. To make a worse situation the worst of all, my #3 son disappeared for 26 hours.
Yes, during the last week of school #3 son decided school was just too much hassle and he couldn’t take it so he went for a walk in the woods towards a friends house, got lost, slept in a stone building near a cemetary, and called home at 3:59 the next afternoon. Of course, he took off anticipating the friends house was close by when actually it was 17.3 miles away. (I know this because I drove him there from our house soon after the episode and counted off every half mile on the odometer loudly). He walked 8.6 miles that night, part in circles through the woods, some along a road with no edge where many car accidents happen. He spent the night in the shed and wandered out the next day to wait for his other friends - who conveniently lived within a quarter mile of where he stayed - to come home from school.
So, why did I entitle this post Tech for Tracking? I used technology to find that 14 year old 8th grader. I had on my cell phone over 17 phone numbers of his best friends, their parents, and some of their emails. I know #3 son’s email password and logged on to check for any intentions. When I called other parents, some of them searched their caller ID logs, some even logged on and found the most current records so we could see when he had called their children. WE pinned down his last known location to within 5 minutes of my husband’s arrival home. One parent told me that he immediately logged on to Myspace to check for any discussion among the teens. We discovered that another teen had gone missing within the same hour and connected with those parents. Unfortunately they weren’t together, but both did come home safely eventually. Some of the parents looked up the history of IM messages on computer and cell phone to search.
Eventually, when #3 son did go looking for his friend, the friend’s parent had checked the answering machine & gotten my message. He had stressed to his child that if found #3 son was to call me ASAP. He did this immediately. #3 son was actually shocked to find I’d filed a police Missing Person’s report (as had the other parents) and that the police dept. and school had worked together using their fax machines and email to search. #1 son had received my text message on his cell phone and came home from world cup qualifying match to pull up digital photos of #3 son and meet me at the curb to return to the police station. #3 son was very surprised to find that I worried about him since he is at the age of invincibility and I should have known he was Teflon.
I thought a great deal about the technology available that night. I was driving up and down roads until I was bleary-eyed. The next day at school I kept the cell phones active until I couldn’t take it and left to drive some more. I pulled up mapquest and marked off the locations of each of his friends and where I’d driven. I felt that I was actively doing something and not sitting at home wringing my hands helplessly. It may have been call # 14 or #17 on the list, but I’m glad that I continued to call and speak to parents and leave messages. When #3 son was safe with me again, I made him sit in the car while I recalled every parent and let them know he had been found.
As technology evolves, I am considering the standard and non-traditional uses even more. One parent asked me, “Can’t we have a vet put a chip in these teenagers like they do with dogs and cats so we can track them?” Previously I would have shuddered in horror at the Big Brother/Sci-Fi approach to control. After the 26 hours of worry that #3 son was injured or worse, I know where people get their ideas for electronic leashes. May you never experience that moment of disconnect.