ORRINGTON, Maine — Bangor resident Jerri Cyr has a typical 14-year-old daughter who — just like others her age — is tethered to her cell phone, constantly texting.
The teen also has a Facebook page that she uses to post pictures and communicate with her social network. Her mother is worried about all the outside influences on her daughter’s life.
That is why Cyr, and her father, Orland resident Jerry Cyr, went to Center Drive School on Wednesday night to hear a presentation by retired Bangor police Officer Dan Frazell, who spoke about how media — music, television, advertisements, the Internet and video games — is systematically desensitizing children and teens and exposing them to possible dangers.
“It’s a constant battle,” Jerri Cyr said.
Frazell pulled no punches as he told the 70 or so parents and teachers at the seminar that it’s their duty to protect the youth of today. He used videos, pictures and song lyrics — some very graphic — and a ton of statistics to make his case.
“We have got to stop being so naive,” he said.
Children of today have computers and cell phones that can download images of just about anything and can connect to people of all ages from around the world, with virtually no limits.
They are exposed to music, music videos and advertising that are often sexually explicate and push the boundaries of decency to their limits, and have sex and violence thrown in their faces through TV programs and video games, he said.
“Kids learn this on TV, and [they think] everything on TV is OK,” he said. “Video games are more influential than TV because they’re engaging and interactive. You are in control. Violent behavior is good and they receive a reward.”
Young people today are bombarded constantly and need to be protected, Frazell said.
“I’m not here to tell you all media is bad,” he said. “I question some of it.”
The biggest thing parents, teachers, friends and relatives need to know is that there is no way to stop exposure to all types of media, but there are ways to reduce or control exposure.
“Do your homework” about what is out there and what your children are doing, he said. “Educate yourself.”
With knowledge in hand, it’s easier to open the doors of communication with youngsters, which is a key to being a good parent, Frazell said.
Frazell graduated from Bangor Christian High School in 1977 and spent 22 years working for the Bangor Police Department. He spent 17 years as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, working with middle schoolers in the Queen City.
It was while out on the dance floor at a D.A.R.E. dance, surrounded by 11- and 12-year-olds, that Frazell first opened his ears to the music his students were listening to, and what he heard disturbed him.
He read the words to one of those songs to the crowd Wednesday, then played the song, which blatantly spoke about sex, drugs and violence.
While still working with children through the D.A.R.E. program, Frazell began making presentations to adults called “In the Name of Rock and Roll” in 1993 and has spoken to groups all over the country and in Canada. With changing technologies, he expanded his topic beyond music to all types of media, and now his seminar is titled “How the Media is Killing our Children.”
During his talk about the dark side of the Internet and Facebook, he spoke about cyberbullying, the choking game and pornography, and said children often do not realize what they do online is permanent and can follow them around forever.
If a sexy picture or a derogatory comment is posted on the Web, “It’s out there forever and they’ll never get it back,” Frazell said.
Young people don’t realize the “friend” they are instant-messaging today can possibly be an enemy of tomorrow or even a predator pretending to be someone else.
While online “I can be anyone,” he said.
Being a good parent or guide in life requires constant learning and can be exhausting, Frazell said, adding that the payoff is well worth the effort.
“Children need heroes,” he said. “I believe parents can be your children’s heroes. Children don’t need a lot more friends, they need heroes.”
Jerry Cyr said that with 13 grandchildren it’s important to him and his wife to know as much as they can about the dangers associated with technology.
“We’ve got to learn what this is all about,” he said. “He had a lot of good points. There is a lot out there.”
Cyr’s daughter said she pretty much already knew most of the stuff Frazell talked about, but it hit home when the former police officer displayed a couple of generic Facebook pictures and said those photos could be accessed by nearly anyone, anywhere and could possibly be manipulated.
“Someone could blow those up into a poster and put them up,” Jerri Cyr said.
“It’s scary what they can do,” her father said.
Frazell offers information and links on his Web site: www.howthemediaiskillingourchildren.com.