The Internet + my 11 year old daughter.

January 29, 2014

This year, our school has started down the technology education road and we’ve had to purchase an iPad for my 11 year old daughter. It has been a mildly tiresome and frustrating transition, having both girls wanting their turn on it and playing games.

A few days ago, I found out that one of the games Ms 11 has on her iPad (that I purchased for her) has a feature for playing with strangers within the app (not through Game Centre). I was not aware of this until I found out she had interacted with two people – one who claimed to be a 10 year old boy from Germany and another person who called her some nasty names.

Now my daughter is pretty mature for her age – but she is still only just turned eleven.
When I exclaimed a bit of shock about her online interactions, saying she had NO idea who the person was, she replied, “No mum, he’s really nice.”

I flew into a mild panic because even though I engage in many a conversation with her, over a gaggle of issues regarding Internet use, I still have to remind myself that she is still ONLY eleven. Maturity or not, her response above only proved she was acting exactly her age – with trust.

With heightened alarm I explained how predators know exactly how to speak to children – they’ve been doing it for a long, long time.
They know what to say; they know how to groom.

To illustrate the point, I decided to show her how easy it is to lift a photo off the Net, with which to create a fake profile. I wanted one of a girl her age. I used my laptop to do this – not her iPad.

This is the moment where we hit a horrific snag.

I went to google images and wrote ‘girls’. With weary predictability, the images that splashed up on the screen, were mainly of scantily clad (mainly adult) females – nothing they don’t see virtually everywhere related to media and advertising.
So I thought I’d narrow down the search and looked for images of ‘school girls’.

I can’t believe how fast I was in covering the screen with my hands because it wasn’t the fact that now there were even more images of (mainly adult) females in their hyper-sexualised ‘school uniforms’ – it was that the second image that appeared on the whole page, was of a beheaded young girl; her body was on the right, her head on the left, facing her shoulder.

I sent my daughter out while I checked other images and then started to cry.
That image wasn’t the only one – there were a few others – peppered amongst the ‘naughty school girls.’

I know there’s nothing I can do about it, but I still wonder:

Question #198: Why has the world become so callous and cruel?

Violence and Porn. Everywhere. Everywhere.

I quickly composed myself and after thoroughly checking content, I called her back. I showed her videos and discussed Internet Safety in terms of:
1. Not knowing who you’re talking to;
2. Being very, very careful about what images and/or videos they put up (in the future).

Many of my 11 year old’s friends have Instagram – something I emphatically do not allow my daughter to have, due to the alarming statistics regarding the use of images on the Internet – that once it’s posted, one loses control of it.

She’s only eleven – halfway there to full cognitive brain development. Halfway.
The Internet certainly gave us a slap.

These are the videos I showed her. You might want to show these to your children too.

This is for young children who don’t know who they’re chatting to.

This is a great and simple video with two 11 year old girls as the protagonists.

This one is more for teens losing control of images. I think it’s well done.

Big Deep Breath.

x

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15 Responses to “The Internet + my 11 year old daughter.”

  1. Lesley said

    Hi

    Thank you SO much for sharing this horrific information, it’s scared the heck out of me and reminded me I need to be sure my four kids (teens to tinies) are safely accessing the internet.

    • You are most welcome. I feel suffocated by all this now that they have to get on the Internet all the time for school. But we have to remember they ARE still kids and we have to hold them away a bit and talk to them CONSTANTLY about what’s there; the whole world, really.
      Thank you so much for your comment.
      x

  2. Nathan said

    Interesting blog, thank you. I have a 2yo, so some way off, but already worrying about precisely these issues. To be honest, I didn’t believe your point about the image search – at least, not the beheaded child. I thought it was remotely possible that you didn’t have ‘safe search’ enabled. So I replicated the search and… gosh, ‘safe search’ or not, there is that horrific image.

    I did notice that there are search engines for children, which I presume filter out this horrible stuff. I’m typing at work, and ironically the kids search engine (safesearchkids.com) is blocked by my company! Unlike the uninhibited ‘wild west’ of Google search. But would definitely be worth using in future when image searching with your daughter alongside you. I appreciate this doesn’t help with her own unsupervised use of a tablet.

    Selfishly, I’m hoping all these issues are addressed by the time by daughter reaches this age.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Nathan. I reported the image, but it’s frustratingly still there. The irony of your company having blocked the safe kids’ site is stellar!
      The only way we create change is by always talking and navigating through this with our kids. They’re the future. We also have to share this sort of thing with our friends. Get parents talking.
      I hate it so much, however, that I can’t protect my kidlets from it all.
      I always use the phrase – you can’t unsee what you have seen – with them. But when innocent search terms lead you god-knows-where (including pin sites) then it’s just all the more harrowing.
      Fingers crossed for some good change.
      Thanks again, Nathan. 🙂

  3. feminist friend said

    “The only way we create change is by always talking and navigating through this with our kids.”

    With respect, that’s not the only way. Internet providers, pornographers, and social media website are all businesses and businesses MUST be regulated for the common good in a functioning democracy. Iceland’s government is currently considering a ban on all violent porn because they see it as a public health crisis.

    We all love our kids, but none of us is as powerful as the corporate businessmen exploiting their youth and innocence. A lesson in the ability of collective action to solve social problems is a gift you can give your kids on top of loving them.

    • I wholeheartedly agree, but those changes seem virtually impossible. I have – with a friend – started a campaign to get Lads’ Mags out of eye site of places like Newsagencies and Petrol Stations (family friendly) locals. We need legal support but none seems keen to put their name to it. So we’re stuck.
      I live in a country whose government makes decisions solely for big business regardless of environment or effects on its people – I see nothing on the news about violence against women that occurs everyday, but ads on men who ‘cowardly punch’ other men. It’s all out of whack and the government doesn’t seem concerned with this AT all. I’m not even sure internet control is the answer because if it could be, then we enter waters of other types of internet (government) control, which is not good; and really, one can’t control the porn monster we have now.
      But the way to change is to change the way we think of things. We can’t change adults’ minds because they already think the way they do. But children are different. We can teach them differently.
      I feel that this is the way we have to arm our kids, so that they see porn, violence against females as something unacceptable and abhorrent and be more of a uniting front to make change.
      I hope that made sense. I cans ee how my comment above is a little vague.
      Thanks heaps for your comment.
      Paula x

  4. Excellent blog Paula! Psychologists and Sexologists like myself are dealing with these issues on a daily basis. What makes you unusual is your capacity to respond as a parent with language and actions that reflect your values and form a partnership with your daughter. You will be the ‘go to person’ for her with the credibility you have established. Wonderful role modelling and parenting!

    • Thank you, Sarah. Your comment means a lot. xx
      I copped some flack on Twitter, though, for not ‘supervising’ my daughter…although I was enough to find out she was playing with someone else.

  5. It’s even one of the rules of internet porn:
    Rule 34—”If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions”

  6. There are things you can do to reduce the amount of adult images on internet devices, of course nothing is failsafe, and supervision is paramount. Install http://www.opendns.com dns settings on devices or better still on your modem. Put safe search filters on Safari and YouTube and Google Search. Google search apps before you allow your child to install them or use http://www.commonsensemedia.org to see suitability. Add parental controls on devices to make sure your child has the right settings for her age, and so you can approve downloads.

    I foresee a huge amount of problems this year with so many schools implementing BYOD in schools, I’ve written about this at my blog. Imagine if you child had downloaded one of those adult images to her device and taken it to school…some kids are doing this. My blog is for parents seeking ways to keep their kids safe online. I’m presently also doing many talks around Australia and particularly on Sydney’s Northern Beaches at schools and community events.

    I really hope parents will understand that there is so much to learn about internet and device safety when it comes to our kids. Kids don’t see the world through the internet like we do, they click on things we never would. If you can go to a cyber safety night, you might feel far more confident about what you can do to help filter your child’s experience on her iPad. I know it seems overwhelming, but as parents we just need to keep learning new skills to keep up not just with tech! My website is http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au ask your school to host a cyber safety night, I’m sure there will be other parents just like you at your school, who thought they had it all covered. best wishes Leonie Smith The Cyber Safety Lady.

    • Thank you so much Leonie for all those useful tips.
      The iPad has some controls in place and am going to alter the post to explain that I (stupidly) did the experiment on my laptop, which has no controls.
      I’m a high school teacher at the same school my girls are at and there are good controls put in place through their WIFI system. However, as you said (and I said) parents forget we are still dealing with *children*, navigating through a very adult world.
      I find the liberty other children have on the Internet who are around my daughter, the most frustrating part because my daughter feels ‘left out’ of what all her friends are doing. I don’t understand those parents because it’s most of them.
      I feel sad she has to feel that way – although it doesn’t change my stance on her being able to participate.
      Thanks Leonie.
      x

      • Yes, it takes a village. Unfortunately so many parents think they have it handled until something awful happens to their child online. They don’t know what they don’t know. Schools struggle to get parents to attend free cyber safety nights because of this. I’m working with the local police area command here on the northern beaches, we often hold nights for combined schools to make them worth while. The biggest issue for school BYOD will be kids bringing in adult or violent content on their devices from home, and showing it around. Or having 3G connected iPads and devices therefor circumventing the school filtered wireless. If the devices don’t have filtering applied, or the home wi fi is not filtered it means kids are accessing the adult web. It won’t be totally safe, but filtering goes a long way to protecting children from accidentally coming across harmful content. Kids also need to be held accountable for getting around filters or for sharing adult or harmful content. There’s no easy solution. But it is so important parents know what the options are, and not just assume that nothing can be done, or that because they don’t see porn their child won’t. Adults don’t click on every “shiny” thing they see…kids often do.

      • Agreed.
        We’ve run workshops here at the school too. I’ve told parents stories that have happened in the past and they look at you with jaws dropped.
        Some then think you’re exaggerating.
        *sigh*

      • I agree wholeheartedly. It is frustrating to me to see young children on Instagram. I will not allow it when my children are older for obvious reasons, but it makes it so much harder when I am opposed by so many other parents (some letting their kids on at nine). Makes me seem like the bad guy when I am trying to actually be the good guy for their future. I think sometimes people get lost in the now. I wanna make my kid happy now and give them what they want now. It is not about now. We are raising future adults and out decisions in doing so should not be so short sighted as to making them happy now, but long term as to what is best for them to navigate and grow into responsible and happy adults.

      • You hit the nail on the head!! It’s VERY hard being a parent when surrounded by children given free reign on social media networks.
        My daughter had a slumber party for her birthday a few weeks ago. Four friends came and at one point they talked about Instagram. They said to my daughter, “You’re the only one who doesn’t have it. You’re the odd one out.”
        It breaks my heart to hear it because NONE of them should have it; let alone make her feel bad for it.
        I’m teaching my girls to THINK of every action and I keep using the phrase “The big picture” a lot with them. Their thinking is predominantly self-satisfying (but then again it’s not only all they see, but is a rewarded way of thinking and acting).
        So glad to have received your comment. Another on the team; with kids in good hands. 😀 x

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