DS, 12, secretly spends so much time on online forum

(29 Posts)
JoannieJones Sat 26-Jan-13 10:07:46

My DS, who has just turned 12 (tho mature for her age) almost overnight turned into the kind of teenager who would spend all her time squirrelled away in her room. I found out (by snooping) she spends a lot of time on a Pokemon chat forum which seems innocent enough but she has an online boyfriend, who I found (again by snooping!) seems to be a geniune young boy. Should I stop this now, should I even be snooping, how dangerous are these sort of forums - he could be a fifty year old bloke from round the corner. she is also the sort who won't talk to me even when something is obv troubling her. I'm new to this teenage stuff! Snoop or not too snoop, is this just what teenagers do nowadays etc.

What rules have you discussed with her with regards to internet use/friending people online? Does she know not to give out personal information? What parental controls have you put in place on whatever it is she's using to get online?

TBH at that age I don't personally think you should need to be snooping because she shouldn't be going onto any non-school related sites you didn't know about. If you're concerned that she's hiding herself away then restrict internet use to communal areas so you can casually keep an eye on things, and at least she's around in the evenings.

stuffedfull Sat 26-Jan-13 10:57:50

Yes you should stop it immediately. Children - note 'children' shouldn't be on online chat forums they are dangerous places. They also shouldn't have computers in bedrooms or be up all night in computers. If you haven't done it already talk to your dd about Internet safety, dangers and risks, most schools also do a talk in this so worth asking her school. You could also limits times on computers - all computers have a programme for this - and get good parental control software which is widely available. Also look at v helpful CEOP website for guidance. Sorry to sound like Internet police but kids have access to way too much and their brains are not mature enough to know how to handle the information, it can often be innocent and through no fault of their own. I have seen children get in to all sorts of trouble with this and it can have a long term damaging effect.

JoannieJones Sat 26-Jan-13 11:25:51

I have talked to her about internet safety, and she has had talks at school. She knows she isn't meant to be on forum sites, which is why she is hiding it. I think I will have to lay down the law again. I do think it is unreasonable to think she won't be looking at anything on the internet not related to school tho. She is finding her own interests and identity and is into manga art, Japanese fashions etc.

It's not that she shouldn't be looking at non-school stuff, it's just that at that age you should be keeping an eye on what sites she's going on. Randomly trawling the net (particularly for things like manga art!) can be problematical - rule 34 is a bit of a joke, but sadly it is true. Without adequate parental controls or supervision she's going to end up discovering the seedier side of her interests far earlier than you might like.

SlumberingDormouse Sat 26-Jan-13 11:49:30

I met a boy online when I was a bit older (14) and ended up running away to the other side of the world to be with him. Though he was genuine and we had a healthy relationship for a couple of years, I regret it now and wish my parents had been much stricter. Nip it in the bud while she's still young enough for you to lay down the law. She shouldn't have a computer in her room anyway, not least because of the detrimental effect it could have on her schoolwork and sleep. Perhaps she could discover her new interests further through books and magazines?

Madlizzy Sat 26-Jan-13 11:54:20

No internet in her room. All the talks in the world about internet safety aren't going to cut it, because she'll think she's invincible and it would never happen to her. Supervision is the only way. I'd also install something like Norton Family (a freebie) on her computer, as you can limit the time on there, and keep track of every website she goes on.

Computer in communal room only.
Get a weekly report of which websites she's on, and make sure she knows that you keep an eye on it, so it's not snooping but transparency.
Limit screen time and encourage/facilitate her meeting up with real life friends instead.

chocoluvva Sat 26-Jan-13 17:11:40

Are there any local art clubs she could go to for pointing in the right direction with the manga etc?

catladycourtney1 Sat 26-Jan-13 17:29:06

ThreeBee the problem with telling her that you're snooping is that she can easily delete her browing history. As soon as you let on that you know what she's doing she'll probably start being much more vigilant about hiding her tracks.

This would worry me, mainly because it is is a Pokemon forum/chat room/whatever (so aimed at children, I assume). I would imagine that paedophiles will go to these sorts of sites to find their victims, rather than sites for older people. Is she fairly intelligent about these kinds of things? I wasn't allowed on chat sites when I was that age (I'm 21 now so not a million years ago), and I remember that whenever my parents went out, when I got a mobile that could get on the internet, and when I eventually was allowed a computer in my room, I was straight on them. I had online boyfriends too, and had some very dodgy conversations (although I always pretended to be older), but I would never have even considered meeting anyone, the scare stories must have scared me too much. I don't even think I would meet a stranger off the internet now. But anyway, I was very clever about it, and I was never caught. If she really wants to get on these kinds of sites, she'll find a way - you just have to make sure she knows the risks and that she doesn't see it as romantic or glamorous in any way.

Have you seen the kind of manga that is made for adult audiences? It's fairly extreme. In your shoes, I would be finding ways of exploring manga that didn't involve surfing the Internet.

catladycourtney1 Sat 26-Jan-13 18:03:23

Maggie that's a good point - I know a few people who are into manga-type stuff, and they get a lot of graphic novels and DVDs from the library, or buy them and swap them amongst themselves. They used to sell a lot of it in HMV but with that going bankrupt I don't know where to suggest for buying stuff, but it's certainly an option.

We get a weekly email for each of them with a list of everything they've searched for and which websites they've been on and how long for. They can clear the history as much as they want, it still gets logged! grin It's usually funny rather than worrying: the worst DS2 has searched for is 'naked Simpsons' and DS3 tried to see if Google Streetview could see inside his room (which is at the back of the house).

We are totally open about this, so I don't class it as 'snooping'. They are used to a similar level of transparency at school anyway, and many workplaces have a similar system.

Of course, this doesn't stop any of them from looking at inappropriate stuff at a friend's house or somewhere else...

catladycourtney1 Sat 26-Jan-13 19:50:28

Oh, fair enough then smile I hope nobody has ever done that to me, I dread to think what people would make of some of the things I must have searched for over the years haha.

I think most kids as they grow up are naturally curious about things, and will look up porn and stuff like that when they hear about or see it from friends at school. I find that less worrying than them potentially being groomed on a chat site, or things like pro-anorexia/suicide/self-harm type sites.

My dd hasn't even been born yet so it will hopefully be a long time before I have to worry about this kind of thing, but I am definitely pro-snooping. Not obsessively, but I think if you're concerned about something, ignoring it or hoping they confide in you will probably do more harm than good.

JoannieJones Sun 27-Jan-13 11:17:03

Thanks for all these tips, its good to hear other views, especially from younger contributors. I didn't know about the logging websites. I assure you all I do have safe site software set up tho. She does already have books and DVDs on manga, I'm an arts librarian, and I have told her about the (VERY) dodgy side of manga which I'm well aware of. Suddenly realised I can just turn off the wifi after bedtime which will sort that problem out.
Its the transparency vs snooping issue that I've got to sort out now, her needing to have private things and me needing to know what they are!

JoannieJones Sun 27-Jan-13 11:24:23

special thanks to catladycourtney1, you seem to be unscathed! I do think dd (not ds as I put wrongly in beginning obv) is sensible and intelligent, part of the problem is that there was no internet or mobiles or chatrooms or skype when I was teenager so its really hard to know what's normal now and what's dangerous.

catladycourtney1 Sun 27-Jan-13 12:05:56

Yeah, I imagine some parts of the internet can be pretty baffling if you haven't grown up with it. There must be new things popping up all the time that even people my age don't know about or understand! For example Skype - when I was younger we always used MSN for instant messaging, and they brought the webcam chatting feature out when I was a teenager but I didn't really know anyone who used it. Now it seems everyone does! I can't see the appeal myself, I must look like a right gorm when I'm chatting online, especially if I'm looking at other sites too. But it's scary to think that an unsavoury character can essentially see into your child's bedroom at the click of a button. If they've managed to find out where they live and what school they go to, with webcam chat they then know exactly what they look like too!

Also with mobiles, I know lots of parents don't agree with giving children smartphones before a certain age or whatever, but nowadays, short of those phones with the huge buttons for disabled or elderly people, you won't find a phone that can't get on the internet. One of the first phones I remember having was a Nokia (maybe a 3310?) and that must have been ten years ago or more, and that could get online. Obviously I couldn't watch videos or anything on it but I'm pretty sure I managed to find a chat site that worked on it, purely motivated by the fact that they were banned.

It's tricky because adolescence naturally includes independence from your patents and separation from them, and most adolescents want to have at least part of their life that's private and not monitored by their parents.

When I was an adolescent in the 1980s, I managed this separation by spending time with my peers. Although it's tempting for today's adolescents to do the same in chatrooms, the people they are interacting with are not necessarily their age at all, and might have a completely different agenda.

patents? I meant parents. I can't even type properly on my own smartphone!

JoannieJones Mon 28-Jan-13 11:24:40

And the irony of secretly typing away on a chat forum myself!
Which software sends you the weekly log of websites please?

mothermirth Mon 28-Jan-13 11:38:35

ThreeBeeOneGee Another one here who'd like to know about the software smile

OhMerGerd Tue 29-Jan-13 09:06:22

21 would be snooping. 12 is parenting. Growing independence is great and its lovely to see your child flourish. Your DD sounds like a bright girl with mature tastes. This can lull you into a false sense of security though. I know, I've been there. Bright does not mean street smart and mature tastes do not equal emotional maturity.
I'd be concerned about the online boyfriend and the secrecy. Privacy in friendships generally does not involve secrecy. Even the most uncommunicative will give you an occasional glimpse into their friendships and mention stuff perhaps editing out the swears and the rudest jokes. They might also show you something funny that friend has written in a chat or a picture and even casually ask your view on a topic if discussion. From experience secrecy does not equal innocent chat.
You may be lucky this time - manga boys ( if he is a boy ) may have loftier thoughts and cultured conversation, but I would be open about checking online activity, buying the software to support this and putting in place rules around usage which include in an open environment.

windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/windows-vista/Protecting-your-kids-with-Family-Safety

Each child has their own account on our home network, so whether they log in from the laptop or the pc, the system still knows it's them. We get a weekly email for each child with a list of words and phrases they've put into search engines, and a graph showing how much time they have spent on each website.

JoannieJones Wed 30-Jan-13 12:55:40

Thanks ThreeBeeOneGee

mothermirth Thu 31-Jan-13 22:02:35

TVM from me too smile

You're both very welcome. I actually look forward to the weekly emails; sometimes the younger ones' lists of search keywords are hilarious.

Cooroo Sat 02-Feb-13 09:27:37

My DD is now 16. But at 11-14 she was insecure, bullied a little, and her great solace was her passion for Pokemon and manga/anime. There was a local club based around the Pokemon card game, which was full of the geekiest kids you can imagine, but a lovely atmosphere.

So yes, make her aware of the dangers, but there are a huge number of genuine kids out there wanting to share their enthusiasm. DD made new friends locally who she'd met on line - but I always took her to meetings/get-togethers to check they were who they claimed.

At 14, she dyed her hair black and had it cut in a spiky Japanese look, and has been pretty happy with herself since! Usual ups and downs, but this really helped her find her identity, establish her preferred peer group and overcome issues.

So my message is keep her safe, but let her have this outlet.

JoannieJones Sun 03-Feb-13 15:58:59

Thanks Cooroo, I agree and that sounds very familiar, think DD is doing just that, finding her identity. Unfortunately we live in remote rural area so she hasn't found anyone into same things locally (she's into emo music too), but as she has only just started high school she has plenty of time.

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