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13 yr old son..not sure what to do

(15 Posts)
BlackCatSleeps Tue 02-Feb-16 23:41:00

My son seems to have a bit of a secret life going on on social media and I'm not sure what to do about it...can anyone help?!

He plays various Minecraft based games online which grew from being with friends and a few friends of friends but now if I'm honest I'm not entirely sure who he plays with. We've been over Internet safety stuff countless times and I thought he got it.

When he first got his phone in year six, I used to check on it occasionally but it was all very innocent and I gradually started thinking he didn't need checking on and I should respect his privacy more.

However (!!), I realised he wasn't leaving his phone downstairs to charge for the last few days, so went up to check earlier and found he was on his phone in bed. So I took it and snooped.

Over the last few weeks, he's got closer to some different friends at school and now he seems to have some friends who are a mix of school friends and people who live somewhere else in the country. He had never mentioned these people to me but was playing truth with one of the girls tonight and she was talking about dicks and vag and how someone had a picture of her. He also seems to be following a few accounts with very explicit pics.

What shall I do? He's 13!! My instinct is to take all devises off him....but would that create more secretive behaviour? I feel really sad!

rogueantimatter Wed 03-Feb-16 04:43:17

I'm sorry I don't have any specific advice for you but, it's natural for teenagers to want to explore the world and strike up friendships independently of his family. Part of his interest will be in fact that he has made these friends for himself.

You must not tell him you've been snooping. Looking at his phone is like looking through a diary, only worse, as you've also read the private messages of other people too. He would probably be so furious if you told him you've seen his messages that he wouldn't listen to any of your reasonable concerns or advice. And it'll make him doubly determined to protect his privacy as you say.

Friendship groups are changeable at his age. I'd try to make your home a welcoming place and make yourself a welcoming non-judgmental mum so he can tell you things without fear of always meeting with your disapproval.

Perhaps you could ask the school if they would have a session on (the harmful effects) of porn and the law surrounding under-age images. There's a website for young people called 'Scarleteen' which might give you other ideas about how to approach the difficult subject of sexting with your DS. You could possibly tell him you'd read something about it in a newspaper/online/radio article and it got you thinking about how widespread it is...... and explain its dangers.

Perhaps you could instigate a no-phone after 10pm rule on the grounds of it interfering with his sleep?

Fairylea Wed 03-Feb-16 05:22:07

I don't agree that snooping through a 13 year olds iPad is the same as reading a diary - in a diary you don't talk to random weirdos.

I have a 13 year old dd and we have a strict no gadgets after 9pm rule. She has to leave her iPad downstairs charging in the kitchen and one condition of her having one at all was that she knows we will occasionally snoop- she knows this, we don't hide it from her. She is not allowed to delete chats or messages (in theory yes she could and we wouldn't necessarily know if she deleted odd messages or things off the history) and we would know if she deleted whole chats as they would be blank. We don't allow her on social media or Instagram. At all. I even go as far as to know all her friends accounts online (I'm sneaky, she doesn't know this) and check them regularly without her knowing to make sure she doesn't create a fake account as I know she would talk to them on it so it's easy for me to check.

Yes I'm quite hard with it all but honestly the amount of bullying and over sexualised content going on online I won't have her part of it as long as I can help it. She has lots of friends and they all chat together on iMessage a lot. It hasn't affected her friendships.

I would put some rules in places with your sons online activities and if he can't keep to them it's no online time until he can. A 13 year old is still a child, it's a bit different when they are 16 plus.

BlackCatSleeps Wed 03-Feb-16 09:38:28

Thanks for your responses...I think the fact that these two replies are so very different is part of my problem because I kind of agree with you both! I think, maybe I have been too relaxed and now I know he has lied to me about who he is talking to etc.

I've used forums for years and have made friends online who I have gone on to meet irl. I think that has meant I've been quite relaxed about him using social media and have tended to think school advice on social media is a little dramatic.

I'm not so sure now though...he meets a lot of the criteria for someone at risk. Secrets, lies, switching machines off as I approach....

rogueantimatter Wed 03-Feb-16 10:30:11

Reading messages is the same as listening to friends chat in their bedroom knowing they've gone there for privacy; it's understandable that a 13YO would be very annoyed to know that their conversations have been read by someone else. Most people have a strong need for privacy. But I completely and absolutely share your desire to protect a 13YO from this sort of thing. I tried to snoop on my DD (I was very lucky that she's a little bit older and I managed to not give her a phone with a contract until she was 15 - she wasn't interested in fb until she was 15 either) but I didn't even think of asking her for her password. Openly reading messages must surely give the message the (possibly self-fulfilling)idea that your DS isn't worthy of being trusted.

There is an American organisation called 'Fight the New Drug' - it has a fb page - which campaigns against pornography. They might have useful facts about the harmful effects of porn. It harms the user - damages relationships, rewires a developing brain in a harmful way. Perhaps he would respond to the thought that his future sex life is likely to be damaged by looking at explicit pics even if the legality of owning explicit pictures of underage children doesn't frighten him.

I hope this doesn't sound trite but is he busy with hobbies, schoolwork, church/other groups etc? I know it's not 100% but keeping them as busy as possible with prevents at least some nonsense.

I really sympathise - this is such an awful new thing. You used to have to go looking for this sort of thing - now it's available everywhere at the click of a button.

JustDanceAddict Wed 03-Feb-16 10:48:32

Watch this with your son, it should make him sufficiently scared of what lurks 'out there' in cyberspace, esp if he is in touch with randomers.

steppemum Wed 03-Feb-16 11:00:06

I have a 13 yo ds who is phone obsessed.

We have strict rules, so his phone has controls on it so he can't download porn etc. These are quite effective (dh is a computer person though, I haven't a clue how it works)
He has to hand it in before bed and so on.

Having said that, he lives his social life through his phone. The people he talks to are a mixture of school friends (he travels to school, so not local) plus girls from the school next door, who they may or may not know in rl, plus a wider circle that he has been introduced to through the others. (on-line)

I don't regularly check his phone, for the simple reason that he would feel so invaded. But we do also talk a lot about what is and isn't ok. For example, we have talked about sexting. It is illegal for him to receive or send a sexually explicit image, and if caught they end up not only with a criminal record, but on the sex offenders register, even if the senders/recipients are both teens.
He is appalled at the concept of sexting at the moment.

Once, a friend, who follows his instagram, saw something inappropriate, and told her mum who told me. We took his phone and went back over his instagram etc and checked everything. He was OK with that, thought it was fair enough and we tracked down the post (from a third party) and he decided not to follow that person on instagram any more.

So for us, the key has been openness, communication, respect, but then stepping in if we see a problem.

That documentary from JustDance is terrifying though. I am tempted to sit down with my kids and watch it, so they understand what we are going on about.

BlackCatSleeps Wed 03-Feb-16 12:16:35

Thank you again..I've just sat and watched (and cried over) that programme JustDanceAddict - thank you, it's possibly just what he needs to watch.

He is generally quite busy - plays football (matches and training), has friends, goes to youth club. But he's still on his phone and laptop a lot.

As I said, I had decided to back right off checking his phone etc to give him privacy. But my thoughts today are that trust and privacy are earned and if I know he's lying to me then that is lost and so I need to go back to checking.

But my worry is that they are one step in that goes underground.

So difficult!

BlackCatSleeps Wed 03-Feb-16 12:17:50

Ps - the strict controls thing so they can't download porn. It's Instagram and following dodgy accounts, so Imdont think that controls make any difference to that.

steppemum Wed 03-Feb-16 12:41:58

yes it was instagram where we had to step in.

I think that the start would be to sit down and have a conversation. I want to trust you, but I need to know that you aren't stepping over the line.

Ask him about the instagram accounts.
You may find that he has got into them and is quite relieved that you step in and remove.

For me, the bottom line is ultimately, I am the parent and I know and understand stuff that you don't yet get, so at times I am going to draw a line that you don't like. This is one of those times.

BlackCatSleeps Wed 03-Feb-16 13:26:09

It's interesting that the top three posts on this board are all about 13year olds!

We'll be having a conversation tonight. Wish me luck!!

rogueantimatter Wed 03-Feb-16 14:12:39

Good luck. smile

Please don't make him feel bad about his natural curiosity - apologies if you weren't planning to. You need to take the line that despite it being very common this behaviour is harmful and illegal.

Be prepared for him to possibly be very defensive.

BlackCatSleeps Thu 04-Feb-16 20:11:01

Hello - I just wanted to say thank you again for all the comments on this thread. You all helped me so much and our conversation went really well! I think he actually was quite relieved to talk and we sorted out quite a lot of things!

And we also watched that documentary together which hit home pretty well I think because it is absolutely the way him and his friends live (well, hopefully not absolutely, but close!)

Mumsnet is great!

JustDanceAddict Fri 05-Feb-16 12:45:50

Glad a few of you watched the documentary. I was crying at the end. I hope the police would now take a mum calling up re potential 'grooming' seriously.
I haven't watched it with my kids yet,I told 13-year old DD about it, although I know she is sensible online and doesn't conduct her social life like that (yet). She wont even add anyone on Insta or FB that she doesn't know or doesn't like.
DS is more the one who could be involved that way, but he is not quite 12 yet so he may be a bit young to watch it? He may never go online again as he has a bit of a black/white view of things!!

BlackCatSleeps Fri 05-Feb-16 13:12:07

I cried both times I watched it too! (but I was a bit over-tired from worrying the night before)

I think your younger one could be a bit young to watch it if he isn't really using the Internet much in that way....I think it sometimes only hits home if they can see themselves in that situation.

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