Tidying up after my daughter’s sleepover last weekend, I picked the iPad up off the basement floor and as the cover flopped open, the screen woke to the browser history window: ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DELETE THIS HISTORY?
The perpetrator had neglected to hit that final YES and showing alongside the question was a list of Youtube links entitled The Power Of…fill in the XXX content. When I showed my daughter the screen, she was blasé and said they couldn’t click through anything because of the security settings. She said the sites had just popped up in the feed while they were watching other ‘appropriate’ stuff. And of course, she said it wasn’t her idea. Whatever.
I impressed myself with my handling of it. I over-explained in my usual fashion; the internet contains the opinions, viewpoints and desires of a variety of people and when you look at things you have to be aware of that and consider how it makes you feel. If it makes you uncomfortable, you can hit the X; if you have any questions, you can ask. I said it can be very confusing at her age to see those things when there’s no context. I told her some pornography showed very little respect for women. I was proud of that ‘some’ and I think it caught her attention. I told her that we, as women, are always in control of our bodies and choices and seeing these images can be confusing because they don’t always reflect that. No shame here. I can’t blame her for being curious, but I let her know I was putting the monitoring app back on her iPad.
I gave a lot of porn rants to my husband when we first started living together. He was just learning to use computers and didn’t know how to (or that he should) shut browser windows and delete his history. He got majorly window-shamed one day when I came home early from work. He was having a productive afternoon – or not, depending on how you look at it. With each X I clicked to close an image, another came up behind it. The kicker was the 70-something year old woman in the purple lingerie around the 100th window. “It just popped up!” he cried. I taught him how to cover his tracks so I wouldn’t have to catch him again.
When I was my daughter’s age, I lived in a neighborhood with lots of kids coming and going. This was back when kids walked to and from their friends’ houses alone and played outside in the light of day. I was walking home from my friend’s house when I saw it, a crumpled magazine lying on the road next to a gutter. As I bent closer to get a look, I realized there were pictures of naked women all over it; it was a catalog of porn videos. I looked around, picked it up and shoved it in my jacket.
That night, I thoroughly examined each photo and read each film synopsis, I appreciated the clever titles ripped off from popular movies. I was scared to keep it, so the next morning on the way to school, I put it back.
When I looked for it on my way home from school, it was gone. A few days later, it was back – only it was on the other side and just a little farther down the street. The catalog continued to appear and disappear for weeks. I think we all had taken turns with it until one day it was gone for good.
I was hoping I wouldn’t have to have these conversations with my kid so early, but with technology and all the information (and ability to be up our kids asses with tracking software) also comes the responsibility to be able to explain pornography in a way that doesn’t shame. Sex isn’t shameful, curiosity about sex isn’t bad, it is completely normal. It’s our job to put in context for them.
I could have just ignored the history, but I wanted her to know it was normal and that she could talk to me. I’m sure she won’t, and she’ll never forget to hit the YES in the future. I said to her what I would have wanted to hear if I got caught with that catalog.
UPDATE: I Figured out the video they were watching (and I do think they watched it!) was The Power of Pussy by the band Bongwater. How’s that for link you don’t want to find in your 9-year old’s history?!