Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Having Another Kind of Talk With Your Kids

Nothing can describe what I feel when I consider some of the unthinkable things that happen to children these days. And nothing could prepare me for what I had to do today - try to explain these things to my son.

He loves our digital cameras. Lately it's become a mildly frustrating but humorous occurrence to find a new "viral" picture or two on our Cybershot or Flip every time we fire it up.

Until today when I turned on the camera to find a close up of his younger sister mooning the camera (she's been doing the "look at my butt cheek" thing a lot lately). Given the way people are today, my wife and I could imagine what would happen if a well-intentioned but unknowing person found the camera and saw the pic. So we decided to have a talk with him.

He knows where babies come from. But trying to relate:

a. the idea of how visual stimuli make grown ups want to have sex
b. some grown ups do bad things to children and would get the same stimuli from pictures like the ones he took, and
c. someone else who saw them might think that mumma and daddy are like that and our family would be in a lot of trouble

...was a real challenge, but he got it in the end. It was good to see his innocence coming through, and the trouble he had grasping the concept. It felt bad to give him these pieces of information that, once he really processes them, will take away another piece of that.

We could have just hidden the cameras from him but we want to continue to encourage his creativity, and taking that avenue from him would not be helpful. We have imposed rules for asking to use the camera though.

The last thought to hit me was how glad I am that it was a digital camera, and not a wet-film camera. We may have never known what hit us. I wondered for a second if we were being too paranoid and cautious, but I don't think so. The last thing I need, on the extreme end of any improbability, is to have my family put through the ringer over two kids clowning around.


MRMacrum said...

Newer twists on age old problems. And it would seem there is so much more to be on the look out for today. Numerous new tests of a parent's ability and desire to guide the little tackers through the process of becoming adults.

I think it was easier to let a kid be a kid longer back when I was growing up. I noticed with my own child (and she is an adult now) I felt compelled to have "talks" of varying kinds much earlier than when my parents attempted to have theirs with me. Our culture has sped up so much, the window of time we have to prepare them gets shorter every day.

Dawn on MDI said...

Wow. How utterly terrifying. I cannot imagine trying to raise children in this day and age. Digital this, instant that, one tiny lapse in judgment is put up on the internet for the world to see. It takes my breath away. I think Crummy's right - things were much easier and simpler back when we were kids - the risks were less risky and the consequences less dire. If you really screwed up, you could still move to a new town and start over to some extent. Not now. The internet is everywhere. Wow. Good luck with those kids. They sound like a joy, but a lot of work, too. Be safe. Be well. Have a good Thanksgiving.

Dr. Momentum said...

In the olden days you would have found out when you picked your photos up at the photomat.

As you noted, that would have been worse. Because it's not digital technology we have to worry about, but the perceptions and prejudices of other people.

It's a bit sad, because there was nothing wrong with what your kids were doing (and I think you handled it the right way). Just siblings having a healthy joke. The sad part is the possible misperception of that innocent act.

I won't say we're an over-sensitive society when it comes to protecting children, because I don't know where the line ought to be drawn. We probably are overly-sensitive when it comes to condemning other people, though.

The poignancy of growing up is mixed in with necessary learning about what kind of world we are in. And I can't help but think that part of our discomfort in teaching our children comes from a feeling of guilt... that we almost have to apologize to them about the world we'll be handing over.