dear compassionate – sex & tech

Dear Compassionate:

Round 3 – If you are reading this I am assuming you are an active, involved and loving parent that wants to do what is right for you and what is right for your child.  You really can’t go wrong with that formula… so sit back and enjoy the read, only apply what works for you.  Remember every child and every parent is different – so what works for one might not work for the other.  Embrace the uniqueness of your relationships.  Embrace your mess ups and your make ups.  Celebrate the days you just simply ‘rock it’ and buckle up… this question involves sex and technology!

Question:

‘My daughter has her own device that she uses to play games, watch videos and listen to music.  For the most I have been able to oversee this and ensure the content is appropriate for her, yet I know she’s a curious kid and sooner or later she’ll realize that she can use that same technology she uses to learn about animals and nature to learn about other topics, such as sex.  Like many ahead of me, I’m looking to navigate “that” conversation.  I’m not so much worried about what to tell her about sex as how to manage her access to it online.  How to expose her to what’s out there without completely obliterating her wonderfully optimistic opinion of the world’

Ok.  So we are going heavy.  We went from how to stop our kids from wrestling in the family room to sex in one blog.  So together we will talk about the topic that has so many parents tongue tied and bothered.  With technological devices comes exposure to a piece of the world that objectifies the human body in inappropriate ways.  It is our job as parents to keep our children safe in all realms.  Every family is going to have different rules surrounding screens and how they use them.  I will personally never criticize a parent for the choices they make in that capacity, however, I will say this:  We need to be accountable and we cannot simply throw up our arms and state that it is just to hard to set limits on screens or to ensure our kids use screens safely.  I was recently interviewed over the phone from a journalist at CBC, after the interview she sent me an article from a mother of three children.  The mother states that it is easier for her to just ‘give in’ to the screens – she no longer sets limits, or manages them.  Imagine if I said that about food.  Oh I just decided it was easier for me to let my kids eat whatever they want.  It is just too hard to manage their nutritional needs so they eat candy and peanut butter.   What if I said that about education – well, the kids just decided they didn’t want to go to school anymore and it was easier to simply let them stay home.  Let’s try traffic – they just keep getting away from me so I decided I would just let them run into traffic and figure it out for themselves.  You get the drift…  So here are some thoughts on sex and screen safety:

  • Most parents find it helpful to name the body parts by their real names.  Fake names for body parts can potentially imply that we have something to hide.
  • Celebrate why are bodies are beautiful – I use to love the Lever 2000      commercial.  You know the one, where it states are bodies have 2000 parts.       Our bodies are full of incredible intricacies all of which have special evolutionary functions.
  • Answer as much as they ask.  When it comes  to talking about the birds and the bees a good indicator of when to have that chat would be based on how much they are asking.  Answer what they ask and then stop and wait and see if they want to know more.  Let them guide you.  Children know innately how much they can handle.  Some are forever inquiring, while others have very few questions.  If they don’t come to you with questions than you will have to tap into your maternal/paternal instinct and judge the timing.  I invite you to think about a few things: having a talk about sex one time and then never talking about it again may send the message that it is taboo.  Consider checking in a few times after      you talked about it and making sure your child knows that he/she can come to you with any questions at anytime.  It is always helpful to have a few good kids oriented anatomy books.
  • Giggling is normal – it’s funny to talk about something as intimate as sex and the body.  Embrace the giggles.
  • Screens  – this will change as the child ages – yet the key is to be involved and      to watch what you model.  We personally do not let screens go into the bedrooms – that way we can monitor what they see and limit the usage.  We pay for apps versus downloading the free ones, as it limits unwanted pop ups and inappropriate advertising.  We watch our own personal usage of screens and model that there are so many more ways to connect as a family.
  • Inappropriate content – So, what happens if they do see inappropriate content?  The key here is to set the stage for open communication.  Think about the      ways your child connects with you? Are they talkers?  Are they quiet?  When do they talk to you the most?  I invite you to take some time and observe your child’s patterns.  Once you know them you can work with them to continue to provide      space for them to reach out to you.  When we keep this space open it creates repairable windows for when things go sideways – not only for an accidental exposure to websites, but for all the everyday bruises and joys they want to share with you.
  • Appropriate Content –  We can also find websites about the body that are appropriate for our kids to use a resource.  As parents we can visit these sites with our kids and talk about what we like about them.

The world is full of beauty and it is also full of big bad ugly things.  One day soon enough they will learn about internet pornography and the like.  They will have a lifetime to try and understand the complicated world that surrounds them.  In the meantime they have a childhood – a stage of life that is short and sweet, that is protected and is joyful, and that is ours to enjoy through their eyes…

The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.

Oliver W Holmes