3 Things Every Parent Should Know About Naughty Word Searches
I’m going to ask you to do something kind of … unusual today.
* Hang in there with me.
I want you to think back to when you were your own child’s age.
Now that you’re “there,” I want you to think about the “naughtiest” words you knew.
Maybe an older sibling told you those words. Or you heard them on TV. Or in traffic.
What was it?
Now that you’ve got it, and perhaps you’re giggling at Younger You and how you handled knowing that word …
I want you go type it into your computer.
Are you cringing at what you might SEE?
Every single day, kids get curious about words they learn—just like you and I did when we were their age.
But today, they have Google at their (literal) fingertips and all too often, too young kids are exposed to too adult materials.
So what’s a parent to do?
First things first: Don’t assume that your kid won’t do this!
Not only are kids super savvy and curious, but sometimes they end up in an intended “Search.”
Up to bat next: Don’t rely on monitoring apps.
While monitoring apps might be a good place to start, they often fail to do what you want them to because your kids might be using words that you haven’t thought to filter or they’re on a device, at a friend’s house, for example, that does not have the same monitoring features.
So what now?! Talk to your kids.
I know, I know.
This is NOT the conversation you want to be having.
But it’s really important that YOU are the one to discuss this topic with them.
Otherwise, it’s a lot for them to manage and maneuver on their own. You don’t want your kids to make wrong assumptions about what they’re seeing or to get their information from Google or from the kid next door.
In an informative article, Net Nanny counselor, Annemarie Lange, says:
“The best course of action is to address the behavior in an age appropriate manner but to be careful not to overreact.”
You want to make sure that your kids feel like they can talk to you. If you overreact, they are much less likely to do so!
Lange also states:
“Conversations with your child around viewing Internet pornography should avoid shaming and punishment. While this conversation will likely be uncomfortable for you both, try to provide reassurance to the child, regardless of age, that they didn't do anything wrong.”
3 Things a proactive parent should do
- Get ahead of the conversation—let your kids know that there is some inappropriate and inaccurate content online and if they happen to see something that they’re not sure if it’s okay or not, to just come tell you.
- Let your kids know that they will never get in trouble for an accidental sighting but they will get in trouble for lying about it or deleting the search—make sure that you make good on this promise. You’re setting the stage for whether or not they come talk to you when the stakes are higher.
- Tell your child that it’s okay to be curious and that you were once, too—you might not feel comfortable with this idea yet. And that’s okay! The idea is to be as open with your kids as you want them to be with you. If you let them know that you once wondered about the word “sex,” they might feel more comfortable talking to you about the time they searched for it. Put this idea in your back pocket for a day when you feel comfortable to use is.
Assuming that you’ve set this stage, your child will inevitably come to you one day—perhaps sooner than you think—and let you know that she viewed something that caught her off guard.
This is a good thing!
She’s talking to you and you GET to be the one to help inform her thinking about this topic!
For the accidental inappropriate content viewer, Lange suggests:
“Try saying something like “I’m sorry that showed up while you were on the computer. Those videos are intended for adults, not children. Together, let’s find you some better sites to visit that won’t show those kinds of images. Do you have any questions?” From there, follow the child's lead in a developmentally appropriate way.”
Asking kids what they think or what questions they have is a great way to let them guide how much information is too much to share and how much is just right.
It’s all in the response
In an article in The New Your Times, Amy O’Leary quoted the Answer organization as saying:
“If we flip out, freak out, or go crazy about it, we’re giving a very set message … one that may prevent children from feeling they can ask their parents questions without being judged or punished. But the most common mistake parents make … is to wait to have the conversation until some incident precipitates it.”
A final note
The most important thing to remember is that your end goal here is to make sure that your kids come talk to you.
It’s okay if you feel awkward or uncomfortable!
The only thing you need to get “right” is not over-reacting; bonus points for bringing the topic up with your kids before it’s ever an issue.
To help guide these conversations, I have a free guide for you that covers 9 things you can TODAY to keep your kids safer online. Get it RIGHT HERE.
Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple, no-nonsense guide to teaching your kids how to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. She believes that you can let your kids be online and still create a grass-beneath-your-bare-feet childhood for them. Get her guide with 9 things you can do TODAY to keep your kids safer online for free RIGHT HERE.