a month ago - last edited 3 weeks ago by Janine-RO
Our child thinks she's met the love of her life in an online chatroom. She believes he's a 14 year old boy in America but the content of their chat suggests he's a lot older. The conversation is totally inappropriate and he's asking for sexual photos and videos of her.
We discovered it accidentally. We've confiscated her computer which she is meant to be using for her first year of high school and she's devastated, not about losing her school computer but about not being able to chat to "John".
We don't know what to do next. Has anyone else dealt with this situation successfully?
a month ago - last edited a month ago
Hi @Nanna1925 ,
That sounds like a very confronting situation face as a parent- I imagine that would have come as a pretty huge shock to you. Online safety and young people being aware of risky online behaviour is something we hear quite a lot about from parents- and given our kids are now growing up in a world where they're increasingly expected to be online for school and use online platforms for staying in touch with friends, knowing how to help our kids to stay safe online is incredibly important.
I can imagine that this would be a really difficult situation to navigate with your daughter, but it may also be a good opportunity to have a discussion about online safety, and setting boundaries around what is and isn't safe online. ReachOut Parents have some good resources that can help you to have those chats - this article looks at a lot of different aspects of how to help your young person use technology responsibly, which can include being aware of the risks of some kinds of online behaviour, and being aware that people aren't always who they claim to be online. You could use this to set some boundaries around what is acceptable behaviour online: for example some parents won't let their young people use chat rooms at all until a certain age, some will allow social media but will only allow their kids to add people who they know, and some parents let their kids know that they will monitor their behaviour online for unsafe behaviour. My daugher is slightly younger (will be turning 12 shortly) and has access to a phone and laptop, but we do check it regularly and have also set up family filters for inappropriate content. One strategy that some familes find useful is keeping the computer in a common room of the house (e.g the living room), so that you can be somewhat aware of what's happening with your child's online activity. The right approach to this will look different for every family, but it's great that you are aware of what's happening and open to having those tough conversations with you.
This article also has some simple tips for looking after your safety online.
It's an awkward discussion to have, but if someone has been exchanging inappropriate messages and/or photos with her, there's also some really good resources on the eSafety Commission website about how to talk to your young person about sexting, nudes, and the potential for people online to be grooming young people- if you want to learn more about these issues, this is a really excellent place to start. The second resource I've linked here also has some great, practical advice for parents on how to approach these issues with their kids.
If your daughter needs to be using her computer for school, it may also be worth letting the school know what's happened - without naming her publicly, it could be a good opportunity for the school to have a discussion with the kids about online safety. The eSafety Commisioner is another great resource for parents and schools
I'm hearing that the other aspect of this is your daughter is devastated at the loss of the connection that she thought she had with this person - I'd imagine that she will need a lot of extra love and support to help her cope with that, and I'd definitely encourage you to have a chat to your GP if you think that she could benefit from chatting to a mental health professional about how she's feeling.
I'm also going to tag some of our Parents champions @Dad4good @Birdwings @eitak1 - there's also some threads here and here that may be helpful to have a read of, from parents who've been through similar things.
Finally, if you think it would be helpful for you to chat to a professional one to one about this, we do have a one to one support service, which is a free and confidential service for parents and carers of young people in Australia - you can access that here if you're interested.
Wishing you all the best - how is your daughter doing today?
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