By: Shannon Ralph
As a modern-day mother, I like to pride myself on my enlightened approach to parenting. I think my children are fairly well-behaved (when around human beings who do not inhabit our house), honest (or perhaps just extremely adept liars), intelligent (as evidenced by their constant questioning of every decision I make), and articulate (as evidence by their mastery of the effectively exhaustive argument). With such amazing children, you can imagine my surprise when my sister called me a couple weeks ago with an interesting tale to tell.
I could hear a hint of unadulterated glee in her voice as she told me that she recently heard from my other sister—who heard from her 5-year-old son—that my eldest son was looking at pictures of naked women on his Kindle during our family’s Thanksgiving celebration at my house.
Now, I try really hard not to be reactionary in my parenting, but my initial train of thought went a little something like this:
What the holy fuck?! He’s eleven! My son is a pervert. My son is a freaking pervert. No he’s not. It’s perfectly normal. Does he not understand how those websites degrade women? I’m a feminist lesbian, for God’s sake. How am I raising a pervert? I’m going to kill him! It’s fine. Every 11-year-boy from the dawn of time has been interested in boobs. Is he a moron? In front of his 5-year-old cousin? Seriously? OMG. My wife is going to shit! It’s perfectly normal. He’s perfectly normal. I always knew that one was straight. Every kid does it. It’s no big deal. But he did it behind my back. Did you tell your mom you were looking at boobs online? My son is growing up. My baby! What the holy fuck?!
When I managed to take a deep breath and think about it, my message to my son was a little more like this:
I want you to know you can talk to me about anything. It is perfectly normal for you to be interested in the opposite sex. If you have questions about women—about sex—you can always ask me. I promise I will always tell you the truth. There is information on the internet that is neither true nor reliable. My job is protect you from the misleading, and sometimes dangerous, material on the internet. Therefore, I am going to monitor what you watch on your kindle. And on your laptop. I am putting parental controls on your devices that will keep you from visiting sites that I don’t believe are appropriate for you. Not because I don’t trust you, but because I love you and want the best for you.
As parents, we worry about our children every minute of every day. These days, many of our worries focus around the internet. The internet is an amazing resource for children. They can use it to complete school reports. They can communicate with teachers and friends. They can play mind-blowing games—both entertaining and educational. They have access to tools to express their creativity in exciting new ways. With a few keystrokes, today’s kids can literally access the world.
But that instantaneous access can also pose hazards. Pornographic sites abound. People who do not have your child’s best interests in mind can easily connect with them by posing as someone other than the predators they are. Cyber bullying is a very real issue for today’s kids. It is important—no, it is vital—that we parents are cognizant of both the awesome benefits and the lurking dangers of the internet.
So what can we do to protect our kids?
Take a deep breath. Relax. Act, don’t react. Set boundaries. Talk to your child. Listen to your child. You can’t monitor your children forever, but you can provide them with safe decision-making skills that will last a lifetime.
Photo Credit: Flickr member Zietfeinger
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Originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
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