Peter and Bridget had been best friends since fourth grade. Everyone knew that if you were looking for him or her, just look for the other. They were together every second of every day. They shared everything with each other and counted on the other to fall back on whenever they needed someone to lean on. Even when they got to ninth grade and started dating (other people) things were still great. Bridget and Peter felt like were like brother and sister, only better. They helped each other with their respective boy or girl friends and watched each other’s backs at parties to be sure the other was safe and not making stupid decisions. They knew that each held secrets about the other that no one would ever know. But, what happens when you know your friend could be in serious trouble and doesn’t want to listen? That was what Peter suddenly found himself dealing with and, for the first time in his friendship with Bridget, he felt lonely and lost.
A few months ago, Bridget started flirting with some guy on MySpace. At first, it seemed like no big deal. Bridget and the guy didn’t know each other’s real names. All Bridget knew was that he lived in Oregon. But, after a while, Bridget stopped being careful and started calling the guy on her cell phone and they talked every day for hours. Peter found out the guy told her that he was nineteen years old and had been arrested twice and was temporarily living in a residential program. Bridget was thirteen. She was good at acting and sounding older, but inside she was really naïve. Peter started sensing danger. He had heard a lot about girls getting into trouble on line, and figured most of those situations probably started off just like this.
Peter tried to talk to Bridget one afternoon when they were hanging out at his house. Bridget’s mom had found out the day before that she was making calls to Oregon on her cell phone. Her mom had taken Bridget’s phone away, so now she wanted Peter to let her use his. As he handed her the phone, he told her how easy it would be for this guy to take everything he knew about her and use it against her. Bridget said she knew that stuff happened but that this guy was different and that would never happen to her. She told him that if he couldn’t understand, then maybe they were growing apart. She wasn’t going to stop talking to this guy just because Peter was upset. Besides, maybe Peter was just jealous.
Peter wasn’t just lonely and scared, he was angry. He was angry with this loser who was knowingly hitting on a minor. He was angry with Bridget for not trusting or listening to him. He was angry with Bridget’s mom. Why did her mom just take her phone away, no questions asked? Why didn’t she ask who Bridget was calling? Why didn’t she call the number she saw on the bill herself? Why did all of this end up in his lap? He was only thirteen and felt he had no power to protect his friend. He didn’t want to go to Bridget’s mom. He didn’t even like her right now. That left only his parents, but telling them felt like a betrayal Bridget might never forgive. Peter found himself longing for fourth grade all over again. Things shouldn’t have to be so complicated. What was he supposed to do when, even though he was only a kid, he was the only one thinking like an adult? If this was what being an adult felt like, he had no interest in growing up.
Notes for the Facilitator
This one goes under the ever growing “where are the adults” category. More and more, our young people are facing dilemmas and dangerous situations that look nothing like when we were young. This fact coupled with what little amount of time adolescents spend talking with or even seeing their parents during their high school years creates a serious issue. Even when busy or overwhelmed parents make an attempt to learn how to navigate this new landscape of technology and stress, they don’t feel they have the tools to see red flags. The key, when I talk to parents, is to tell them the same thing I tell my students when we talk about how to distinguish between a challenging and a dangerous situation. As often as the landscape changes, your gut stays the same. It will remain your north star—your compass. When it feels like something is wrong, something is wrong. Your job is to pay attention and honor your gut. Parents often forget this. They feel that because the game has changed, the rules have as well. They haven’t. What parents and adults need to do is pay attention and act unashamedly on behalf of their children’s safety despite the anger or resentment that might cause.
Fine, so that is advice for the adults. But that isn’t Peter’s dilemma, is it? When you bring this to the students, it is important to know that the first issue is that Peter should not have to deal with this dilemma alone. There is something wrong that Bridget has been racking up hours of time with this guy and still Peter is the only one who has noticed. After discussing this point with the group, you can then move on to what Peter should do.
Discussion Questions (& Debate Topics, Writing Assignments, etc.)
- How do you know the difference between a challenging situation and a dangerous one? Which do you think describes Bridget’s decision?
- What would you do if you were in Peter’s shoes? Is there anything he can do without losing his lifelong friendship?
- What, specifically, makes Peter’s decision so hard?
- What are some reasons maybe Peter should tell someone about this?
- What are some reasons maybe he shouldn’t?
- Have you ever had a friend you knew was doing something that could get her/him into trouble? What did you do?
- What do you think about Bridget flirting with this guy on line?
- Do you know anyone who flirts on line? Have you ever worried about him/her?
- Why do you think Bridget’s mom didn’t ask Bridget about all the phone calls she was making? Do you agree with what Peter said about her? Why or why not?
- What do you think is the guy’s motive in writing and calling Bridget?