I quite possibly have experienced my most difficult parenting moment to date.
I discovered yesterday that my 9 year old has been exposed to, shall we say – unsavoury, internet content. Of the hardcore variety.
He spent yesterday afternoon telling the Deputy Principal all about it.
Naturally, she called me with her concerns.
You know that internally shaky, total body nausea feeling? That’s how I spent the rest of the afternoon. Oh, and hyperventilating.
OMG I can’t believe my baby has seen that.
What the hell am I going to tell him?
How should I handle this?
This is potentially damaging. He is 9 years old. He doesn’t know anything about anything and this is his introduction to The Birds and The Bees!?
In my entire parenting career I have never been so…uncertain. And overwhelmed.
Colicky baby? Easy.
Tantrum throwing 2 year old? Piece of cake.
Argumentative 7 year old? Pfft.
This? …This! Totally gets me doubting my skills.
So, after my little panic attack I pulled myself together and raced to the local book shop and bought the very last copy on the shelf.
Introducing my new best friend
When we sat him down for a chat it was obvious that he is in over his head. He is totally perplexed. He tells us that before his friend showed him the website he had no idea anything like this even existed. “Why would people even want to do that? I don’t get it? Will I have to do it? What if I don’t want to? Does it hurt?”
He’s watching it for answers; the problem, clearly, is he’s walking away with even more questions.
Cue, “Where Did I Come From?” (Thankyou Peter Mayle, Thankyou.)
We read it together. Along with another great book called “The Facts of Life” which has handy pop up illustrations of eggs and sperm and cell division.
Both are great books.
Combined they are the equivelant of Mothers Valium.
We answered every one of his 137 questions.
We made sure he knew that what he saw was not real. It was acting. Acting is his language.
We made sure he knew he did nothing wrong.
We made sure he knew he is unconditionally loved.
When we are all talked out, there are no more questions and there’s nothing left to know, we kissed him goodnight and tucked him in. I am struck by how the heaviness has left him. He is visibly relieved. It is like a weight has been lifted.
Poor kid. He simply was not ready.
My lesson from this?
There are no less than 5 million ways we could have prevented this.
First, don’t ‘think’ that you’re kids’ laptops have Net Nanny security. Know.
Stupid of me. Seriously seriously stupid of me to not know with absolute certainty that something like this was not possible.
Second, when a bunch of normally rowdy boys go quietly missing with a laptop, start asking questions. There’s always one that knows more than the others.
Third, set up your protective measures not only based on your child, but based on the whole world. I have never been an OTT* parent, but I realise that some things require an OTT approach. This is one of them.
We knew Actor was no-where near close to looking for this kind of information so we felt no pressure to increase our controls. His brother is 2 years older and while he knows basics he certainly has no concept of this internet ‘content’ either. We did not consider outside influences and that was our biggest mistake. The reality is, we are safe in our own little bubble, but it doesn’t take much for outside pressure to burst it.
We should have aknowledged the potential for that pressure and made precautions against it.
Damage control is one thing. Prevention is obviously ideal.
If you find yourself in damage control, like I was yesterday, you have to ask yourself the questions “what did I not do? What should I have done differently? How can I use this to protect my kids in the future?”
And then you learn from your mistake and soldier on.
*OTT= Over The Top