Dear Imaginary Children,
First of all, I want to thank you for being model citizens. It is so refreshing to have it all together. I watch my friends parent and see the love, sweat and tears they pour into raising their children and breathe a sigh of relief. Because, dear ones, you are effortless. I never think twice about what you are up to, where you are going or if you will make good decisions. It so nice that sometimes I forget you are even there.
Love, Love, Love,
Your Adoring Mother
What if I told you there was a video game that offered children the opportunity to experience simulated sex with a prostitute?
It’s called Grand Theft Auto 5. And 69% of my 11 and 12 year old students play or have watched someone play this game.
Would you believe me if I told you that many of my students earned this game for good grades or maybe even Santa left it for them under the tree? You should. It’s true. But I don’t think Santa had any idea that simulated sex with a prostitute was an option in the game. I mean, what adult in their right mind, real or imaginary, would?
What if I told you the video of said simulation I watched on YouTube in the name of research left me in tears for the generation of young girls that will see this and believe this is what is it expected of them to be loved. And the boys who will think it’s perfectly normal to treat women this way.
One of my students asked me why I wanted to know if they had played GTA5. I told him that I thought there was some stuff in the game that was too much for their 6th grade hearts. His response, “Well, I haven’t played the game but I did watch a video on YouTube and immediately regretted it.” With a half-hearted smile I replied, “I think we watched the same one.”
What was your first introduction to images that were too mature for your heart?
Two moments come to mind for me. The summer we got HBO and the time my friend found a magazine in the woods. We have all had that moment. Where we are exposed to something for which our hearts and minds are not designed to see. And I think it’s easy for adults to brush off “that moment” because according to my neighbor “part of growing up.” Which is sad but true. But I think there is a major difference between our experience and theirs. Times have changed. I don’t think we as adults have any concept how much. But with the invention of the internet, kids gained access to things we can’t even fathom.
This summer when I was flying home to see my dad, I got to chatting with the woman seated next to me who is in the midst of raising teenagers. She told me that a friend of hers had secretly installed software on her son’s phone that gave her access to his texts, internet and social media. And that every morning, her friend would wake up and check the contents of her son’s phone. What she saw made her “want to burn her retina’s out.” And she doesn’t know what to do because she doesn’t want her son to know she installed the app. So she feels helpless and hopeless.
The real reason I haven’t blogged in months is because last April I that felt like I was supposed to write this blog . And I didn’t want to. I want to write about rainbows and sunshine. Not video games and porn. But the reality is that I think this an area that needs a little light. The heart of this post is not to leave people helpless and hopeless. It is to shine a light on an area that I think parents are unaware of, not because they are negligent, but because it is impossible to fathom what’s really out there. And that their kids might find it.
There used to be time where you could count on those with authority to protect and safeguard children. But those safeguards were destroyed for fear of censorship and religious oppression. And the line went away. It’s gone, folks. The line of right and wrong, good and bad, went out the window with moral relatively. And those of us who grew up with a moral compass and some semblance of a line….we have no clue what our kids have access to. Especially if we haven’t put boundaries in place to protect them.
Have you ever scrolled through the film options on Netflix? I mean, really looked at the smorgasbord of smut it allows into a home or into our hands? How about Hulu? I would say that most of us haven’t because we know better. We have learned that what we watch and see has consequences on our hearts and minds.
We teach our children that stoves are hot to protect them from getting burned. When they are young, we create physical boundaries so that they can’t touch hot things until they are old enough to understand for themselves what we mean.
How can we as adults create boundaries to protect our kids hearts from the things that will burn their soul and leave them wounded?
Here is how I would protect my imaginary children.
- I would install safeguards on my home computers, internet, Netflix and Hulu. I would take advantage of all the parent controls possible and invest in some internet software like Netnanny or Covenant Eyes. I would also change my wi-fi, Netflix and Hulu passwords regularly because kids are like ninja’s when it comes to figuring out how to cheat the system.
I would collect all iPads, phones and electronics at night. No one needs access to the internet or texting late at night. And I would make sure to include old forgotten phones and iPods that can still connect to the wifi, (Ninja’s I tell you).This may seem extreme but we live in a world where it is perfectly normal for a 12 year old boy to text/Snapchat/Kick a nude photo of himself to a girl. And he gets a photo of her in return. This is becoming the new norm for our society. And maybe it’s not all my little guys doing this, but by 9th grade, it’s pretty much par for the course. The scariest part of this new phenomenon is that these nude photos are also sent to boys they meet online. In other states. Total strangers. Through Kick. Instagram. Snapchat. Kardashian style.
I would talk with my kids about love and sex. And how everything is changing. Often. I would ask questions. Even the embarrassing ones. And if by chance you find this video game in your house, my advice? Don’t panic. Don’t freak out. Simply sit beside your child as they play the game and ask them to take you to that scenario. Watch what unfolds and then be prepared to have a very serious, very uncomfortable conversation about sex. You have the opportunity to set the record straight and untwist the lies. Because if you aren’t telling your kids the full story, someone else will.Most likely the eighth-grade boys at the lunch table. Or Netflix.
Sorry to be such a downer.
Love, Love, Love
The Girl Who Lives in my Head