Maybe we should have stayed screen-free.
Yesterday, a day I had been dreading: my seven-year-old came home from school and asked me what “sex” was.
Turns out he had received the following “friend request” on his favorite website, the seemingly-harmless-enough Moshi Monsters:
hi lover boy meet me at the park and we come have really good sex
Cut to me, staring at the screen, marveling at the potty mouth on tia3456789 (pictured at left).
“This person said this when they wanted to be my friend,” he said, “and I didn’t know what they meant.”
“Did you accept their friend request?” I asked, smile frozen on my face.
“Yes,” he said, as if there were no other possible answer to that question.
I blocked the sender, stuck my finger in the dam by telling my son “sex is when moms and dads kiss,” then contacted Moshi Monsters help directly. I heard back from them within the hour that “appropriate action had been taken.” Still, their reassurance fell a little short:
Due to privacy laws, we cannot give any information regarding action taken.
We ask all parents to please not contact the player who has been reported or removed, as this can escalate the situation unnecessarily.
I took their advice and have not left this little sh*t/Moshi an enlightening message on her own”Friend Tree,” which had been my intention. But upon further consideration, I’m wondering if Moshi Monsters is mostly thinking of themselves when they warn against unnecessarily escalated situations. Why shouldn’t I reach out to this jerk, even if he or she is a minor, and say, you are ruining childhoods and I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING?
And then just his morning, the New York Times printed Amy O’Leary’s sobering article So How Do We Talk About This? , addressing what to do when your young children see internet pornography.
Not what to do if they see pornography.
WHEN they see pornography.
The overall takeaway of this article, and of Moshi Monsters’ prefabricated response to me, is a depressing realization for this parent: my children can’t be safe on the internet. Not even on websites designed for children. (Perhaps especially not on websites designed for children?) Here’s how Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of the national sex-education organization Answer, boils it down:
“Your child is going to look at porn at some point. It’s inevitable.”
Apparently I need to give up on my dream of childhood innocence with a sigh, and take as a given the day when I have to steer my nine-year-old son towards appropriate images of nude women to surf.
Wait, did you read that right? Yes, you did.
Dana, a divorced mother of three… assumed her sons would seek out pornography and thought it was normal for her 9-year-old to want to look at pictures of naked women. But when he was 13, he asked why women liked to be choked.
What? WHAT? I sure don’t want my 9-year-old son graduating to only violent porn by 7th grade, that’s for sure, but ain’t no WAY I’m going to shrug my shoulders if I find my third grader googling “boobs” later this afternoon. I refuse to accept that as “inevitable” for someone so young, someone so happy being so young. If we all accept that as normal than our children’s childhoods will suffer for it.
The NYT’s Motherlode blog has an extremely helpful post up today, also by Amy O’Leary, explaining how to filter your home network and (perhaps most importantly) talk to your kids once the horse has left the stable. It’s the unavoidability of that moment that I’m struggling with today, hoping that I may yet be able to tighten the reins, start looking over their shoulders a little more often, and protect them from those who would take joy in ruining their innocence.
What do you think? Is it inevitable that our children will see pornography online?
Should the focus be on how to protect their innocence, or what to do once it’s ruined?
What steps have you taken to monitor what your child sees online? Has it been successful?
Most importantly, do you think I should fire off a nasty note to Moshi Member tia3456789?