Well, I can’t assume that he is vermin. And I don’t want to insult our ferrets, whom I lovingly call our vermin (well — mostly lovingly). He might simply be a human being with advanced deterioration in his orbitofrontal cortex. But he is immoral.
About a week ago, I had received a burst of three-or-so texts with tasteless jokes that I assumed were simply the result of someone with a wrong number. I let it slide. Then, a few days later, I received a few more from the same number, one of which was horribly racist and offensive. I thought I would at least try and call to politely let the person know that he was sending these to the wrong number. Part of me was concerned that it was some sort of automated service that would now know I existed and begin targeting me even worse, but I thought I would gamble anyway.
All I got was a recording from “John” asking me to leave a message. And I did, letting him know that he may be unaware, but his texts were going to the wrong number and that I would appreciate his correcting his contact list.
A few more days go by and I figured that, just maybe, all was OK. I was sitting in the living room with my kiddos watching TV and I had six-year-old Boy #4 in my lap, requesting to play on my iPhone. I told him that I would give it to him in just a few moments, and boy am I glad that I hesitated.
I had it in my hand and was going to give it to him when I heard it chime the familiar “You’ve got a text” noise. On receiving a text message, my iPhone — even in sleep mode — will show you the text or image you’ve been sent and then go back to sleep if you don’t respond. Well, upon hearing the chime, both Boy #4 and I instinctively looked at it and right there was a pornographic picture. I covered it immediately with my hand (and honestly, freaked out a little) and apologized to Boy #4 for taking it away so quickly, saying that someone Daddy doesn’t know seems to keep sending him bad things. He understood and, thankfully, is young enough that he probably had no idea what he was looking at in the small amount of time he saw it.
I, on the other hand, was furious, and — I will admit — even as I type this I start to feel incredibly angry that someone would do such a thing when any of my kids could have been holding that phone. They play games on it often — and, as I said, were just about to — and it felt like an attack directly on my children. I know it wasn’t, but it felt that way.
Realizing that this was serious and that I could not predict what this guy might send next, I told Boy #4 and his brothers that until Dad figured out a way to block this individual, I couldn’t let them use my phone. Then, right after I said that, I received three more images from this person, and it was as if the vulgarity was getting worse with each send.
That night my Beautiful Wife and I researched options online and came to the conclusion that, generally, you cannot prevent your carrier from allowing a particular number to text you without paying for an additional service. We did have the option of blocking text messages all together, but I hated the idea of removing the convenience of an occasional text message. Also, I could assign an alias to my number, then only allow those who text to my alias address to be permitted, but I have had a few occasions where folks I wouldn’t have thought to give my alias to have texted me with information I really needed at times when texting was the best option.
So, I bit the bullet and added AT&T Smart Limits to my plan for $4.99 per month. It was odd entering information for my own phone as if it were one of my children’s, but hopefully that will do the trick. Based on some of the details I read on the Smart Limits website, I am not 100% sure that this will do the trick, and I may need to move to Plan B. Just to be sure, I am going to wait a couple of weeks before I let them use the phone again to see if Mr. Pornography strikes again.
(For what it’s worth, I asked the service rep at the AT&T store if I could there was a setting on the Smart Limits plan that would send a focused pulse of particles into the phone of the offending individual to fry it’s circuits, but he said there wasn’t. It never hurts to ask, you know.)
People do things like this for the fun of causing a hassle to someone else — the new millennium’s answer to “crank calls.” But just thinking that my boys could so easily have been exposed to such vile images makes me mad. Lawlessness abounds and the love of many does, indeed, grow cold (cf. Matt. 24:12). I know this person is getting his jollies by doing this, but I wonder if he thinks about whether or not there might be a little kid on the other end of the line. Even scarier, I wonder if he even cares.
[HAPPY UPDATE, 12/29/2009: See here.]