PictoChat on the DS

Technology and communications devices are creating a whole new set of issues in residential care.  I remember when FRS radios were very popular and kids were using them to communicate within the facility.  Today we deal with all the disposable cell phones that are brought into facilities and used by the kids, and now we have a new thing to deal with, the Nintendo DS PictoChat.  We have actually had it for a couple of years now, but with almost every kid having one now, it is much more prominent. 

PictoChat is a utility that is included with the Nintendo DS that allows up to 16 people to chat at one time wirelessly using their DS.  You can either use the virtual keyboard to type your message or you can use the stylus and write a message that you send as a picture.  The range is not real good, less than a 100 feet, but there are still many opportunities for the kids to use them.  They could easily use them to communicate between rooms in a house/cottage or between vans parked outside the office or school, and if the cottages are built close enough between cottages.

We are currently dealing with a situation where some younger teens were using their DS’s for “SEXTING” (sending sexually explicit test messages) and setting up late night rendezvous for other purposes.  I am sure policy changes are coming concerning possession and use of the DS, but it will just be a matter of time before we are dealing with something else.

We are not ever going to be able to stop communication, and I don’t think we should try.  We are much better served trying to teach the kids to communicate effectively and positively, but we definitely need to be aware of how the kids are communicating, especially when they are doing it for negative purposes.

When we make ourselves more aware of the issues, we are much better able to help the children and deal with the issues.  When we first started dealing with this my wife said, “I had NO idea you could do that with a DS.”  Now she is painfully aware that you can.

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