We saw an interesting photo a while back, one that sort of sums up a new generation.

It showed several kids in the 14-year-old range walking single file on the sidewalk. They had backpacks and book bags, so one might logically assume they were students headed off to school. Every one of them had heads down, a cell phone held in both hands, and it looked to us that all the thumbs were flying across the keys, texting.

The photo caption captured our attention — “The real zombie apocalypse.”

Cell phones can do that to a person, and it doesn’t have to be a kid. You see it all the time, a couple at a nice restaurant for a quiet meal — and all you see and hear are two cell phones in action, key clicks indicating a text being prepared for e-delivery.

And you probably thought to yourself or said to your dinner companion, what happened to just talking? It’s what you may have thought or said — unless you were texting instead.

Let’s face it, texting is a new way of talking. It has its own language, mostly code, and it happens billions of times each day. You’ve likely seen the outcome of this new form of communication, pre-occupied texters walking into doors or falling into water fountains. Hilarious.

But texting has also become a new form of bullying, sometimes with tragic results, a boy killing himself after being cyber-coaxed by his girlfriend. Or a young boy taking his life after being bullied online or via text.

The potential for mayhem doesn’t end there, as officials at Vandenberg Village’s Buena Vista Elementary discovered last week.

Sheriff’s deputies investigated the reports of text threats, identified and contacted the sender at his residence, and confirmed the student did not have access to firearms so there was no immediate threat to the school.

Back in the day, we could write off such shenanigans as that’s just kids being kids. School yard and playground threats happen all the time. But it’s a different world now.

The Sheriff’s Department continued the investigation into the Buena Vista incident, which in all likelihood will end at that. But here is something all parents need to keep in mind — that cell phone you gave your child can be a powerful tool, and like every tool it can be used to do good things, and bad things.

Think of it like this — your youngster turns 16, and after already qualifying as a driver with a learner’s permit, now can hit the road for real, solo. But what if the kid didn’t have the benefit of that training, didn’t really know the awesome potential — for good and bad — inherent in a 2-ton vehicle?

Kids tend to live in their own worlds, and it’s not difficult to imagine that, without the proper training and guidance, an imaginative teen might make up his or her own rules. If you apply that concept to driving a car, it’s easy to see the potential for calamity.

The same principle applies to kids with cell phones, because once they understand the enormous potential of such a device and its connectivity, vivid imaginations can run wild, literally.

The cell phone is not unlike any other kind of device. It is best used after being educated on its full potential. And when teaching about all the nuances, an adult needs to understand that explaining the bad along with the good is essential.

Let’s face it, teen life today is far more complicated than in our day.

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