Letters To The World: Navigating Uncharted Waters

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Dear All,

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.

Laksh

Author. Parent.

10 thoughts on “Letters To The World: Navigating Uncharted Waters

  1. I have been pretty open to my 9 year olds. Sex is little early for them so I told them people do bad stuffs like touching private parts. They already know about addiction as they have seen some homeless people in the street. We have strictly told them not to have any chat with anyone other than family. I have told them they will take to other countries. It is kinda of scary for them but they understand. It is my own thoughts, I am ok with them being scary than been in danger.

  2. Going to come home and send you a detailed message. Writing this to say that there’s stuff, tons to help. And the mom who alerted you needs some baking sent to her. You have a community around you.

  3. “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.”
    So so scary. I hope you had word with school too.

  4. That is scary! Hope it was just a harmless banter. We can never be too careful with the kids I guess. ;—(( I will look to this page for resources, will appreciate if you can share what you find.

  5. This was a hard read and scary post. My children are all grown, but I would like to learn and understand how you handled it. You can email me privately. If you don’t mind. Or prefer to ignore me, a total stranger. I would understand.

  6. How terrifying. There’s a resource I’ve fallen in love with. I found it after my child went searching for things on school computers. Even with filters, what was seen was far too much.

    https://www.protectyoungminds.org

    I follow her blog. I also got the book by her, “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures” and read it to my kids. I should probably read it to them again, even though they’re older now. Average age of exposure to porn is now somewhere around 8 years old, or younger. Many are in kindergarten and their friend brings a device in.

    We don’t want to start these conversations, but today it is not a matter of “if,” it is a matter of when. We must teach them to actively avoid situations where they might see images or get sucked into chats with strangers. We must teach them how to navigate when it happens anyway. And we must teach them what to do if a real live friend is the one introducing it.

    Sounds like you handled it well. Now just keep the door open. Like the sex talk, this isn’t over in one sitting but must be a regular, ongoing conversation. Yours are entering that age where soon friends’ opinions will matter more than yours. Start now so they’ll always know they can come to you for questions later.

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