Your children only get one short six-year period to be a teenager. Although those years are some of the most important years of their lives, it really doesn’t last that long. During that timeframe, the majority of children will graduate eighth grade, move on to high school, take the ACT test, go to prom, graduate and, decide where their lives should go from that point on. Will it be college, a trade school, the military or the workplace? Whatever they do, our children’s teen years are some of the most important and memorable times of their lives. What that time shouldn’t be is a time to die or to be a killer.

Over the past couple of weeks, and occurring more often than not, we are having young people killed by other young people — or putting themselves in a scenario where they die a needless death. I am still pained over the three girls who died in the murky swamp water in the cemetery in Florida. When I saw the news report where the mothers and grandmother of those girls questioned their deaths, let’s just say the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. And therein lies the biggest issue we have. Parents who were too young to have children have no clue — nor do they want anyone’s advice on rearing children. The flip side is granny, who, if she has to raise her grandchildren and mama isn’t dead, failed the first time around and this time the outcome is not going to be any easier or necessarily better.

Then there is the case out of Delaware where a girl got into a fight with another girl over a boy in the bathroom. Friends of one of the girls jumped in, and we have a dead 16-year-old as she hit her head upside a bathroom sink. Fighting by girls is not unique, nor is fighting over boys. But girls ending up dead is a problem, and we can trace the origins of most of these bad behavior to two sources. Again one is the parents, who do little to teach their children a better way, and the other is what far too many parents nowadays supply their young people with.

That major hindrance is modern technology, which many of us put into children’s hands with no real clue as to its evil potential. The majority of children now have smartphones with 24/7 access to the internet. Within the internet are those social media sites where what used to get left behind at school, work or play until the next day, now is there all the time. Cyberbullying leads to egging on fights and confrontations with deadly results.

A teenager is always going to try and keep secrets from their parents. But it is a parent’s responsibility to know what their teenagers are up to, especially because they are living under the parents’ roof and the parents are paying that costly cellphone bill.

One of the simplest methods to find out what is popular among young people is to simply Google, “Favorite social media apps of young people.” Facebook isn’t on the list as much as Instagram, Periscope, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. Parents can also control the time their children use their phones by simply taking them at night and handing them back in the morning. Folks can keep up with mess if they don’t have access to the mess-maker.

Lastly, many of our young boys who are 18 are still getting caught up because a 14-year-old girl sends them a naked photo via the cellphone. Although the young female instigated the contact, the boy is still considered to be in possession of child pornography.

So no matter how uncomfortable it may be as a parent, and in this era it shouldn’t be, talk to your children about the dangers of sexting.