A few weeks ago, I got a rather terse text from a fellow school mom asking if we could chat. An hour later I sat in my study feeling unmoored. Long story short, the school had an app on their school iPads that permitted outsiders to use the messaging in it to reach students. One of my children was talking to someone outside the school.
I paced the room. I set up a meeting with the school authorities. I filed a complaint with the police. I did everything I could think of. The biggest thing lay ahead of me. I had yet to talk to my child about the dangers of talking to strangers online.
Knowing my children, I knew whatever had transpired was completely innocent from their side. I also know that a couple of years from now, the same incident can look a lot different. I talk often and enough about stranger danger. I ask them to be vigilant. I teach them everything I have learned about self-defense.
I had not yet contemplated the possibility of my children being reached from the outside world. I had not given thought to how I would educate them on the dangers of grooming or online predators. I foolishly believed I had time. I would do it when I was ready and before they had access to a phone or a device that let them chat. What I had not counted on was that these things are everywhere. On school iPads, on devices in the library. Places where I expect my children to be under the watchful eyes of adults. Safe spaces.
We had a difficult conversation on what happens to children who are groomed and taken away from their families. We talked about why it is never ever okay to talk to strangers or exchange information. I haven’t yet spoken of the horrors of sex trafficking. I hope that conversation can wait awhile.
In the process of educating myself and my children, a dear friend pointed me to resources available online. Check this out: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/kids-online
So, here is my question for you. As a parent how do you talk to your children about sex, drugs, online predators, addiction? How do you talk about the hard topics and educate instead of scare children? Are there resources you can share?
How do we create awareness in schools and our communities?
Seriously out of depth,
A scared mother.