the lost children of rockdale county
Discussion: Teens & Parents: What do you think went wrong for the teens of Rockdale County who were caught up in the strange events of the spring and summer of 1996?
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Dear FRONTLINE

As a mother of small children, I was most interested to see how this could have happened. It is my strong belief that a child who is an active part of their family, is paid attention to and has strick parameters is less likely to find themselves in this situation.

I most agreed with the comment made during the follow up panel discussion by the minister about supervising children from the start and not instituting discipline when they are preteens.

Regardless of how many of my contemporaries lessen the grip on their children, I will continue strictly supervising my own with more resolve than ever. As disturbing as the show was to watch, information like this is vital for those of us who activly parent their children away from these situations. Thank you and I look forward to more like it.

Trish Thompson
Tallahassee, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE

the program was a eye openning and old news at the same time. I'm a father of two teenagers, F15,M13, and a F20 yr old. I have listen to my children talk about classmates that are sexually active,some as young as 12yrs old. we also have parents that have no clue what their children are doing.

I have talked to some parents about Jrs and Srs in hight school having parties at hotels , to my surprise I found out that some parents pay for the hotel rooms so the kids do not make a mess of the house.

Jorge Munoz
mwc, ok

Dear FRONTLINE

i watched your program the other night with a profound sense of sadness, because i know too well that georgia is not the only place where this mystifying sense of desolation overtakes our young people.

Of my four children, the youngest experienced similar though not as extreme events during her brief high school career. It is clear to us now that she employed the same tactics described by the kids in your program and that we were either too dense or too preoccupied with our own lives to percieve the truth.

It is also clear to us that she engaged in drug use, alcohol abuse and probably some form of unprotected sex under circumstances similar to those described in your program.

My wife and i have frequently discussed our failings in this matter, and they are many. didn't we care enough to protect her? did our own morals fail us? would things have really been different if we had done what i or she had wanted to do? There are answers to all these questions that really don't matter much. the damage is done-to her and to us as a couple. the upside is for me the opportunity now afforded to correct, to win back some of what was lost and to build again trust and affection ruined by these times.

My suggestion to parents is to demand of yourself. Do not assume your child, school administrators, your spouse, your nieghbors or anyone else share an agenda that will keep your child safe. Listen to what is being said, be present when you can, meet the others that your children socialize with and above all, follow your best instincts. in simplest terms, my biggest failing was allowing myself to be talked out a feeling I had by someone else. I think most adults are smart enough and savvy enough to understand when something is not right. we are not courageous enough many times to follow thru on the feeling. I know now that as many times as she tried to trap or manipulate me, my daughter wanted so much for me to use my sense and experience to protect her and that i frequently failed her.

I would also note that many parents rely on for help teachers, guidance counselors, school administrators and church officials who frequently offer advice or in other ways enable these young people to disobey or avoid their parents. Remembering the support my parents recieved from these sources during my admittedly distant youth, i have to admit to a sense that some of these people betrayed not only my trust but my child's at times.

Kalamazoo, MI

Dear FRONTLINE

I am a 15 year old female. This is the same age as most of the CHILDREN in this report. I found this report showed me that the things that i had suspected, were indead to be true. I looked at the girls; wondering what gave them the idea that sex was not a big deal, that it was an accepted, everyday, common thing. That drinking was ok, that "everybody does it", that its what teenagers do. well, I must tell them that they are gravley rong.

I will admit that the girls in the video somewhat greatly reminded me of the girls at my school. They too go to beer parties, get drunk, have sex, mabye even group sex. To me this is something that i do not even think about, that i will not do , will not try, will not experiment with.

I am so apreciative that Frontline has put this report out there, so the parents will know the truth. I cannot speak for the rest of the teens in America, but I,a girl with a close personal relationship with my parents would like to say thank you so much--this may be what will motivate teens to turn there lives around, to straighten up and fly right.

Emily R.
Fayetteville, GA

Dear FRONTLINE

I saw "Lost Children" by coincidence while away at a conference. The conference was worthwhile, but the highlight of the 4 day trip was this gripping program. What a wake-up call!

Some thoughts:

- My wife and I always go to the parties and sleep overs our kids attend. It's really easy to see if an event is going to be wild, and head on out. Now, our kids don't even bother asking in marginal situations. They just say no, and can blame it on Dad on Mom, being so strict.

- Conyers is not an isolated example. In our town, the CinePlex is the teen scene. Kids are drinking, smoking, making out, you name it. And those are the ones you see! Where are the parents for these kids? Is it any surprise that kids hang out, if their parents don't care?

- Teens may rebel, and give parents attitude, but I believe strongly that they are still kids. Our teens are almost always grateful when we are strict, as long as we are consistant, and make an effort to work with them on fun things to do. Love and attention gets repaid in full!

- Few parents, including those seen in "Lost Children", do not genuinely love their kids. The challenge is that today's popular culture does not reward devoted parents. Today's heroes are phenominally talented, richly rewarded, but most often have the morals of a dead cow. It stinks. Fortunately, the rewards of truly devoted parenting last a lifetime, and can not be measured in millions or billions. If parents give up on their kids, they should expect their kids to give up on them.

As for me, I am SO glad I saw this show. I will be spending a lot more time with my children, and a lot less time at work. It's never too late!

John Peterson
Jupiter, FL

Dear FRONTLINE

After viewing the program, my first impression was to blame the parents. Now that I have thought about it awhile, I have to put the blame squarely on the kids themselves. The parents were providing them with all their needs, but that just wasn't appreciated at all. The woman who has five children tried to discipline her children, but couldn't get any support from her husband. Who wouldn't give up if the odds were 6 against 1?

I only hope and pray that these young people have learned some hard lessons and can start helping themselves out of this terrible mess.

Jo Ann Davis
Panama City, FL

Dear FRONTLINE

Like many of your veiwers, I was stunned by this program. While I disagree that working mothers contribute disproportionately to the familial dysfunction described in your report, it is clear that the parents of these teens should have been paying closer attention.

However, the loneliness, isolation and boredom echoed repeatedly in the children's interviews cannot be resolved by the application of discipline. I was particularly struck by Amy's story of being cut from the cheerleading squad, an event that followed closely on the heels of her rejection by a longtime best friend. As parents, I think we sometimes tend to underestimate the impact of heartbreaking events in our children's personal lives, simply because they are young and will "grow out of it". Amy's father spoke of exerting "pressure" on his children to keep them in line. But perhaps what is needed cases like hers is a deeper recognition that a child's distress is something more than just a another short-lived adolescent crisis.

Also, I don't think you can dismiss the notion that these youngsters need access to entertainment and activities that are more personally and culturally enriching than hanging out at the typical suburban commercial strip.

I don't believe it's a coincidence that most of the tragic teen violence we've witnessed in the last few years has taken place in suburan settings. In removing our families from the perceived threat of the urban environment, we also isolate our children from some of the most inspiring examples of art, architecture, music, theater, and science. Suburbia, devoid of the stuff that fuels the positive side of human imagination, becomes a wasteland for bright teens who are not inclined to participate in sports, scouting, or church groups.

But overwhelmingly, the part of the report I found the most disturbing concerned your interviews with young women who seemed to feel that the only value of their sexual activity was to "fit in" with a group. Despite the variety of sexual acts these girls felt compelled to participate in, there seemed to be no sense of sensuality, or even lust. That sex could and should be a personally rewarding experience was simply not on their radar. Instead, they described it as nasty and unpleasant.

What are the chances that these young women will ever learn to truly enjoy consensual sexual intimacy? I came of age during the "sexual revolution" in a very liberal community. Most girls in the public high school were sexually active by 15 or 16. Many had several sexual affairs before graduating. But empowered by early sex ed courses that stressed prevention rather than abstinence, the availability of birth control, and the strong messages of the Feminist movement, we were quite deliberate in chosing when and with whom our sexual relationships would develop. Promiscuous? Some of us certainly fell into that category, myself included. But in that time and place, we felt sex was something shared out of affection for one's partner and a desire for physical gratification. How horribly sad that these girls had their first sexual experiences compromised by a drunken stupor or the irresitible force of peer pressure.

Thanks for an execellent program.

Judith Stadtman Tucker
Portsmouth, NH

Dear FRONTLINE

What impressed me most about the interviews given by the kids involved was how intelligent, articulate and well adjusted they both seemed. The attitude they projected, which a number of the respondents to this discussion have called "cavalier", seems to me to be evidence that these kids have a perspective and a sense of perportion beyond the scope of even the program's producers. The fact is these children are growing up in a far wider world than we grown-ups did, and as a result, perhapse they're more accustomed to coping with its hazards than we are. After all, we watch Jenny Jones and are shocked; they just roll their eyes.

Mitch Smith
Denton, TX

Dear FRONTLINE

Thank you for doing this special report. I am 17 years old and my parents spent time with me and loved me but you know what, everyone makes mistakes. I grew up in a home that promoted abstinnence and I always wanted to remain a virgin until I was married.

However, when I began dating I messed up and I had sex with a few different partners. I regret it now. Having sex at such a young age ruined me and I became clinicly depressed and tried to commit suicide. Premarital sex takes away a teen's self-esteem and self-worth. I felt cheap and low. However, when I finally made a descion to become a secondary virgin, I felt like a new girl. My life and my self-worth has been restored. Though things can never go back to the way they were, they are better.

This kind of stuff is happening everywhere no matter what anyone says. Mothers, my mom loved me too but it didn't save me. Fathers, my daddy still lives at home and loves me but that didn't save me either.

Let me warn all-- this generation is hurting all over and these precious girls are wherever you look. Parents let me warn you, I don't care how much you love your children or how much you are there for them, there will still be that emptiness. I say to the nation as a member of Generation X, the only thing left to do for these beloved teens is to pray and continue to love.

I hope that no parent would blame themsleves because that is a burden no one is guilty enough to carry.

Mesa, AZ

Dear FRONTLINE

Having lived here in Conyers since 1994, I NEVER would have guessed that such an occurance would ever take place so close to home, but, it did.

I truely believe that it is, once again, a wake up call for parents everywhere. Even the three girls who were virgins, when asked why they were virgins, I said to myself, let's see if they give the right answer, or at least a good answer. They replied "because our parents want us to be." Even the kids who have a sense for what is right and wrong couldn't give a mediocure answer. That says to me that parents are NOT COMMUNICATING WITH THEIR CHILDREN!!!

I live about 2 miles from Heritage High school. I have 2 daughters, luckily, they are 3 and 5. I say luckily, because they didn't and will never have to face these time bombs that these parents have created.

My wife is a stay-atahome Mom. We are not lucky, rich, or live off of the Government, we are committed to our children. We give up A LOT in order to have one of us home with them. Some might say that they're sheltered, well, if the alternative is a result of this program, they'll be sheltered for as long as I can keep them that way.

We care about our kids, enough so, that we put them first. Their clothes are ALWAYS first, their interests are ALWAYS first. We live, monetarily speaking, less than paycheck to paycheck. I work side jobs on almost every off day. I work as much overtime on my job that I can.

My point once again is that we are committed to our children, something recent generations have lost, and, occurances such as these are testament to my point.

Vince Bilicki
Conyers, GA

Dear FRONTLINE

I was shocked to see so many teens involved with so many partners in anonymous sex. When they were interviewed for Frontline, they had a very cavalier attitude about the whole thing. So did their parents. As a mom who used to raise a teenage girl, I would flip if she ever did this. My daughter and I spent a lot of time together just doing things like clothes shopping, lauging together in front of the tv and going to teen movies together. We communicated by hugging and yelling and getting on each other's nerves. She drove me nuts, and I'm sure I drove her nuts, but we had a wonderful closeness because I put parenting ABOVE career. We didn't have a lot of things, but we had a wonderful relationship. The first time she was intimate, she called me up and asked my permission becaue she was in love and I gave it. She has since married this person and has a wonderful, warm family. She only works part-time because she puts her kids first. I am damn proud of being strong enough NOT to jump on the corporate bandwagon, after all, who really has more? Myself and my daughter, or some woman sitting on tv show talking about giving up on being a diciplinarian because its just too hard? She may have a beautiful home and the lastest car, but she's much poorer than I've ever been...Things are nice, but they'll never bring the joy and closeness of a tightly knit family. I feel sorry for these people, they are so blind.

Peggi Meyer
Glendale, CA

Dear FRONTLINE

I was shocked at those interviews!!!!!

I am 19 yrs old and high school in my neighbour hood was let me make this very clear

NOTHING!!!!! LIKE THAT!!

I couldn't believe that!

This comming from a fellow peer.

NEVER FEAR !!

I HAVE THE SOLUTION!!!

If you listen to the teens they are unanimously in argreement of the problem!!

First it is the parents fault for not being with your kids. Trust me, as much as we say we don't want them around we do. We need guidelines and we need rules. Yes there are some who will still slip through the cracks but the priority should still be put on the teens and second......THEY WERE BORED!!!!!!!

So please, please find these teens something to do. Such as: basketbal, basebal, football, soccer, skateboarding, rollerblading, wakeboarding, drama, painting , drawing, dancing, gardening, ANYTHING!! But make it just for teens, run by teens, with security for differences of opinions, with the music,food etc. They like and want as a majority!!

They use sex as a way to curb boredom and their to busy to notice parents let them do it! I felt incredibly sorry for them that they had to go through the same struggle I had to while I was in High school but what makes it worst for them is that, they now all have S.T.D's , unwanted children and a bad rep, with nothing to show for their wasted time. If parents get involved and I mean no yelling at them or saying "I am right and you are wrong" and you give these kids something to do. That outbreak should be just a blip in time. Thanks for listening!

J. Gummo
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dear FRONTLINE

I didn't catch this on

TV but my parents had

seen it & mentioned it.

This is so sad. As a

parent of two children

9 and nearly 13, I must

say that there is

absolutely no way I would

ever have allowed either

to go places where I had

not been able to confirm

with the parents that

there was responsible

parental supervision that

I could trust. We are

a Christian family and

are trying to set the

example so our children

will internalize their

own faith, but realize

they will make mistakes

and must one day take

responsibility for their

own choices. But as long

as they live under our

roof, there will be

limits and caring concern. Thank you for

an eye-opening program.

alliance, OH

Dear FRONTLINE

I lived in Rockdale county my entire life before I left for college. I graduated from Heritage High School with honors. The report shown on Rockdale's "lost" children is positively one of the most sickening depictions I have ever seen.

While in high school I knew that instances of teenage sex were somewhat higher than normal for the nation, I had no idea that this level of base debauchery was taking place. On behalf of all the morally grounded teenagers in Rockdale county, I think I can express my shock and sadness that our society has fallen so far. I can only pray that the return of family values to the Rockdale community can be accomplished before even more of America's youth fall under the curse of peer pressure.

Andy Staples
Conyers, Ga

Dear FRONTLINE

I am the parent of two teens, a 16 year old daughter and a 14 year old son, with whom I watched the show. My son said at least once, "What is wrong with these people!? Are they psycho?" He sees a lot of kids making decisions to smoke, drink and smoke pot, and gets some abuse from his friends for not participating. But never has he, nor I, heard of teens getting involved in anything as incredibly amoral as this!

The scars these young people will carry for all their lives are truly heartbreaking. Never will they know how wonderful, tender, intimate and joyful making love can be when it involves two people committed for life!

My husband and I are very involved in our kids' lives, and yes, still call to talk to parents when our kids will be at their homes. I do have compassion for these parents, though. Many of us baby-boomers don't realize what true commitment is. As I do in my marriage, I have to COMMIT myself every day to my children, and it's not easy, but it's always worth it.

There are no guarantees when it comes to raising our children, but I've always felt two things were most important: BE THERE and remember, you are not raising children, but hopefully emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically healthy FUTURE ADULTS. Nothing you do in life will be more important.

Suzanne Heflin
Elmhurst, Illinois

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