I went to search for a YouTube Video and noticed a not so nice website name under my browsing history. After the initial shock, I went into research mode. I went out and looked at the site. I was shocked again. Then I started searching my history files.
There is something weird in Windows 7 and the Explorer version that I have and it kept showing just the last view day/time (which I had just done) rather than all the views. I found a handy free app that I downloaded and was able to pull up the details. When I reordered the file history by time, I had a detailed account of an hour spent on my computer last weekend. The first half hour I was mortified about. The last half hour was webkinz. Anyway, because of the detailed history I was able to establish who in the household that this incident belonged to.
Fortunately everyone was just headed to school when I found this and I was able to sit with everything that went on. I went to each link in the history file and clicked on it. The site that was viewed brought tears to my eyes. The tears were for the fact that these images were in one of my childrens brains. I looked at how long they were on each link. I checked the other computers in the house, no problems there. I went back to my computer and really analyzed the data that I had.
There were 3 videos viewed. One had been viewed for just over 2 minutes. The other two for just over a minute. I then analyzed the rest of the half hour which seemed to consist of clicking on links and getting stuck (you know the sites that once you hit the home page you can’t get back out?). She went to one site’s home page (which was a google search of the names of another video on the first site). This site said “Do not enter unless you are 18”. She didn’t click and enter. It also showed that she had tried to delete the history file. Not sure how she tried to do it, but obviously it didn’t work. Then she went to webkinz.
When the girls got home from school, I checked all phones. No problem going on there. I work with other people’s kids all of the time. I was fortunate that this incident occurred in a way that I had some processing time. Time to get into a neutral space. Time to ground myself so that I could hold space for her in the conversation that we were going to have to have.
I asked her downstairs, told her that I had found something on my computer and asked her if she had anything to tell me. “No”, was the reply. I sat in silence for a moment, then told her that I knew for a fact that someone had been on my computer on Saturday, and that it had been her. I was not angry. I did not raise my voice. I sat in the most neutral space that I could sit in. I stuck with the facts. I sat in silence some more. Still some denial, then finally she admitted going to webkinz. I told her that she had gone to more than the Webkinz site and that I had the proof right in front of me, would she like to see it. Then I was quiet. As tears rolled down her face she finally told me that she did it. I asked her what made her google something like that.
NOW HERE IS THE LESSON… She said, I hear that word used on TV and I was just wondering what it was. Hmmm…. When the kids are doing something for school, how do they find out about it. They Google it! She wasn’t out on that site for any other reason than that she was curious what it was (any of you see the Oprah where the 10 year old girl asked her Mom what sex was?? Mom was mortified. After delving into it, the little girl just wanted to know what it was. Period.). That word is referenced many times a day in all sorts of contexts. Now I had to sit in the space that I hadn’t had the conversation early enough. Ok.
We then had “The Talk”. My heart still hurts a bit that she had that type of imaging as a preface to my discussion with her. She was a bit confused with what she saw. We discussed that as well. We talked about the video and how it was degrading to women (this one was), and by the look on the girl’s face it was not a very mutual experience as it should be. Then we had the discussion about keeping yourself safe. Then I hugged her and hugged her again.
I would like to go back to the LESSON part. If we find something that our children have done, give yourself some time to process. Don’t react, respond. It will make a huge difference. Don’t think the worst. Kids are complicated, but many of the things they do are simple. We overthink it. They don’t have adult brains yet. They don’t overthink what they do or have done. We do. Research everything and analyze what is really there. You may have to take a step back to do this. Find out the details, there will be a lot of information there. Go into the discussion with an open heart and neutral energy. It will make a difference. Don’t badger them. Give them some space to think and respond. Kids don’t want to disappoint us or have us think badly of them. Reaffirm that you love them but you are concerned. Don’t be afraid of silence in a discussion. Don’t ask them ‘Why’ and expect a decent response. Sometimes they really don’t know why. Remember to give them the space to talk. If you are doing all of the talking, they won’t. It takes them some time to get the nerve up. Don’t forget to tell them that you love them, No Matter What.
I am not worried that my daughter will be out on the internet on sites that aren’t appropriate. Will I be more diligent about viewing the history files? You bet. Will I tighten parental controls on the computers? Yes to that as well. Will I have conversations with my other two daughters right away. Yes. I think the biggest lesson is that kids think Google has the answers to everything (which could be true), but it may not be the answers that we want them to have when they are not ready for it. Make sure and have “The Talk” with your children, even if it is uncomfortable, and even if you think they may be too young. Better coming from you then everyone else’s version out on the net.
By the way, this post was delayed because I asked my daughter”s permission to share this. I felt it important to honor her decision. She thought about it awhile and came back and told me “Yes”. I honor her for allowing me to use our experience.