Dr. Amy Gordon Presents at Loudoun County Public Schools

Dr Amy Gordon, a clinical and neuropsychologist of the Ashburn Psychological Team, presented at the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents (LEAP) on October 14th. The panel of local experts discussed the impact of technology on our student children and teens. Dr. Gordon spoke in place of Dr. Michael Oberschneider of the team, as Dr. Oberschneider has been kept quite busy with his newborn. Below is the link to LEAP and the excerpt for the evening.

The panelists for this evening will be:

  • LCPS Director of High School Education David Spage, who will speak about LCPS policies regarding the use of personal technology devices in the school.
  • Deputy James Spurlock of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, who will present the cell phone portion of his department’s Internet Safety Workshop.
  • Michael Oberschneider, founder and director of Ashburn Psychological and Psychiatric Services. Dr. Oberschneider will address the psychological impact of technology on children.

The Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents (LEAP) is a non-partisan network that promotes interaction between parents, teachers, School Board members and members of Loudoun County Public Schools administrative team.

Each two-hour program features a panel discussion on topics of interest to parents and members of the community at-large and an update from LCPS Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III. Each LCPS school elects a delegate from its PTA or PTO to attend LEAP meetings. However, members of the public are always welcome to attend.

Review of the evening’s panel discussion…

LEAP Learns About the Dangers of Texting


That’s what the three speakers at the October 14th meeting of the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents (LEAP) told parents they need to put in place when they allow their child to have a cell phone.


Recent studies state that 22 percent of teenage girls and 18 percent of their male counterparts have sent nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves using a cell phone.

37 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys have sent a sexually explicit text message.

The average teen sends or receives 2,500 text messages a month.

35 percent of students say they have used a cell phone to cheat in school.

Teens are 23 times more likely to have a traffic accident while they are texting.

Overuse of electronic devices can lead to a condition called “infomania” or “digital autism.” This is a condition where someone is so involved or overwhelmed by a constant stream of texting or communicating that they lag in personal development and the development of interpersonal social skills.

Some teens become so involved with their cell phones that they actually go through withdrawal symptoms similar to alcoholism when they’re taken away. “If you have separation anxiety in your household that needs to be addressed,” said Deputy James Spurlock of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

Spurlock told the LEAP delegates about some things they didn’t know about their child’s cell phone.

Pictures taken with a cell phone are cached in a database by the cell phone’s service provider. Spurlock said anyone with the phone’s access code, which can easily be obtained, can access this cache of photos, even though the cell phone user has deleted them from the phone itself.

Spurlock said such photos are retrieved and pedaled to pornographic sites; many of them overseas where trafficking such pictures is less legally risky. He said a nude photo recently taken in Fairfax turned up on a pornographic site in Spain.

Geotagging is another feature most parents don’t know about. Each photo taken with a cell phone records the time and location that the photo was taken. Using this information, Spurlock said a stalker can determine that a picture was taken at a specific address and easily locate that address.

Web sites where ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends can post embarrassing pictures of former loves are commonplace, Spurlock added. Such sites are often monitored by third parties looking for pornographic images to post elsewhere.

All of this is done, Spurlock said, without the knowledge or consent of the person who took, or was the subject, of the original picture.

Spurlock also referenced the “Superman Complex.” This is texting a bold or offensive message to someone that you would never say to their face. Distance makes people grow much bolder.

Domestic abuse is another area in which misuse of cell phones has become common. Someone can text a spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend constantly about where they are, what they are doing, what they are wearing, or who they are with. “It’s a mechanism to control them at a distance,” Spurlock said.

Girls aren’t the only targets of such behavior. “Don’t think it’s just your daughters at risk,” Spurlock warned.

Legal agencies usually get involved in inappropriate use of cell phones only after something tragic has happened, Spurlock said. Generally speaking, laws governing such inappropriate uses are three to five years behind their initial occurrence.

Spurlock warned that parents will be behind the technological curve of their children, who were raised with, and therefore more comfortable with, emerging technologies. “Unless your profession is on the cutting edge, you are a few steps behind.”

Dr. Amy Gordon of Ashburn Psychological and Psychiatric Services said she is seeing cases of sleep deprivation caused by texting. Teens will sleep with a cell phone near them on the bed and feel compelled to respond to text messages at all hours of the night.

Not receiving texts messages can cause just as much anxiety as receiving too many, Gordon added. “If they don’t receive texts they feel they are out of the loop.” She said the teen begins wondering if they are now the one everybody is texting about behind their back.

Another trend Gordon has seen is children e-mailing a parent up to 15 times a day in reference to simple decisions, such as which color shoes to buy. This can lead to a lack of personal growth and an inability to make decisions, she said.

Gordon also sees a lot of children who divorce themselves from family activities, such as vacations, so that they can text. “Texting has removed the child from their current environment.”

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Director of High School Education David Spage went over School Board Policy §8-34, which regulates the use of cell phones in school and mirrors the Code of Virginia. Cell phones can be present in school, but can’t be used during the school day without permission. During his five years as principal of Potomac Falls High School, Spage said he had many battles over the use of cell phones in school. “It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a battle on their turf.”

Spage said students will often say they are “checking the time” when caught with an active cell phone in their hand. (This is a particularly popular excuse after the change from standard time to daylight savings time when school clocks can be wrong.) His response: “Is that your final answer? We can easily check.”

Spage said he told students he really didn’t want to be the cell phone police. “I want your phone as much as you want me to have it.”

There are times when administrators know enforcing the no-cell-phone-use-in-school rule is futile, Spage admitted. Such was the case during a recent fire drill at a high school. As soon as the students were ushered into the football stadium “it was like a cell phone convention.”

Besides outlining the problems associated with cell phone use, the panel offered some ways to ease or eliminate these problems:

· Model the behavior you want to see in your child. Don’t be attached 24-7 to your Blackberry. Don’t send the message to your child that a text message or e-mail is more important than they are.

· Set aside times, such as meals, when texting isn’t allowed.

· Make your child leave their cell phone in a common area, such as the kitchen, when they go to bed.

· Insist your child hand over their cell phone for periodic inspections. If they’re not engaging in inappropriate activity, this should not be a problem. “We’re the parents. Our job is to keep our children safe until they know better than we,” Spurlock said. There are ways to get around such inspections, however. A teen can tap into a wireless network – such as the ones available in many restaurants – and send messages that won’t leave a record on their phone.

· Know the capabilities of a cell phone before you hand it to your child.

· Talk with your cell phone provider about filtering out certain features.

· Check Web sites that list abbreviations and terms used by teens online so that you can decipher their messages. Spurlock said he has a dictionary of such terms that is now more than 300 pages. “You’ll never know it all.”

The next LEAP meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 11th, in the School Board Meeting Room of the School Administrative Offices in Ashburn. The topic for the evening will be “Moving the Mountain – How to Motivate Your Child.”

LEAP meetings are free and open to the general public.