My husband and I were keeping our children safe while they played on the internet … or so we thought!
Our twelve-year-old daughter had become more and more attached to our laptop computer, to the point that she was spending nearly every free moment on-line “playing games.” The computer was front and center in our home, on the counter, and right where we were frequently walking by and monitoring what our kids were doing. When I would pause to watch our daughter on-line she was always playing a game and I would tease her that her brain was going to become “mush” because I didn’t see anything more than silly “kid chatter” going on. She would just give me a silly smile and was often texting at an incredibly fast rate!
My husband was more astute about the whole situation and said that our daughter had other windows opened up at the bottom of the screen, and was deleting them when he came close to see what she was doing. He would ask her outright what she was doing and she would say “Nothing,” or “Playing a game.” I, the adoring Mom of our innocent twelve-year-old would say, “She’s okay, she’s just being a kid!” But a few months ago my husband woke me up in the middle of the night and said, “There’s something that you need to see!” I dragged out of bed not expecting to see anything overly exciting, but whoa … he had opened “the proverbial can of worms!” He had found text-message after text message on our computer, with entire exchanges documented in files that our daughter obviously didn’t realize were there! We found out more about what was going on in our daughter’s mind than we could even imagine …
“The Innocent One” knew a lot more about life than we realized and had a few internet chat “friends” who were willing to help fill her in on anything that she might not know! The sexual innuendos and flirtations were there, but what was even scarier were the references to phone calls that she and her online “friends” had been making, and the open exchange of personal information that had been shared … including contact info and discussions of, “Oh why don’t you come and visit here?” (With cities in distant states!) One of the exchanges was our daughter’s friend asking her, “Did you get his phone number?” and her answer was “Yeah, but it was a wrong number … some old drunk guy answered!” Yikes, that was it! There were personal photos and links, including “My Space” and “FaceBook” pages, and more details about our family’s private life in text messages than needed to be broadcasted into Cyber World!
When our daughter came home from school that day she stopped in her tracks when she saw that the computer was gone, and she demanded loudly “Where’s the computer?!” We told her it was broken, and when we asked if she had maybe gone somewhere on the internet that might’ve given the computer a virus she was quick to say, “Oh no!” I wanted to confront her with everything that we knew, but my husband felt very strongly that we should just “get her back … get her off the internet and get her back into life!”
So I used what we had learned to understand my daughter more … some of the statements she had made on-line were valid needs in her mind and heart! I realized that she truly needed more attention, more recognition and self-esteem building, and more “Mommy Time” I realized that we hadn’t been able to talk with each other the way we used to talk because she had become lost in “Cyber World” and we didn’t have much in common to talk about! Our son is sixteen and has Down Syndrome, and my Mom lives with us and has extremely advanced Alzheimer’s, needing to be fed and cared for like a baby, so they both got a lot of extra attention and our daughter had been left on her own to play on the computer. I thought she was fine but she definitely needed and deserved more attention than she had been getting!
We began doing things together: we went to the bookstore to get her some books to read, since she wasn’t going to be playing on the computer, we went to get our nails done, went out to lunch, and started spending more time together after she got into bed at night. She was very angry about the computer initially and not talking much at first, but we began enjoying each other a lot more and having laughs together again. She started spending time with her real friends and doing sleepovers again ... and her friends’ moms and I are in touch and keeping our kids off the internet when they’re at each other’s homes too! They are going to a nearby church on Friday nights where they are in supervised groups while they socialize with other kids their age!
A few weeks after all of this transpired I said to my daughter “You’re enjoying real life a lot more than computer life now, aren’t you?!” And before I had even finished the question she was giving me an emphatic “Yes!” with a big smile … we had our daughter and her beautiful spirit back!!
I am thankful that my husband was more astute about all of this than I was and very grateful that we were able to rescue our daughter! If it had gone on until she was older I am sure it wouldn’t have been as easy to rescue her! And I hope that our story can help save other children! God bless you and your families!