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I have two young daughters and here’s why I say no to sleepovers


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Growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, sleepovers were a common occurrence for my friends and I. I cannot even count how many times I slept over at a friend’s home, starting in late elementary school all the way through high school. 

For the most part, these sleepovers were innocent but it’s not those I remember: it’s the ones where I saw movies I was way too young to see, where things were discussed that were far above my maturity level, and where I couldn’t even remember parents being present

These sins seem quite tame compared to the deluge of possible harm that children face in today’s society if they stay over at a friend’s house, which is exactly why my daughters are not allowed to participate in sleepovers. 

Daughters, parents were holding hands in the park

I’m not a helicopter parent. I don’t follow my daughters, who are 12 and 8, everywhere when they are playing. They love to read, paint, hike and play board games. I try to give them a lot of freedom to make their own decisions but also guide them along the right paths, hopefully leading to a well-formed conscience. 

WASHINGTON POST WRITER PANICS OVER SLEEPOVERS, WORRIES ABOUT GUNS, GENDER ISSUES

But as a parent, my job is also to protect them and keep them safe from danger. I feel that allowing sleepovers would potentially put them in harm’s way. 

Here’s the thing: you cannot know someone, their spouse or their kids with 100% certainty. Some people are very good at hiding their flaws. Just take a look at the news and see the depravity that plagues our society, where seemingly good boys or men are arrested for horrible crimes against kids. 

If some kind of sexual assault were to happen to my daughters at a friend’s house whose family I thought I could trust, I’d never forgive myself. I’m not the only person who has had their trust in someone shatter into a million pieces. I can handle that but not when it comes to my kids. If I have the opportunity to shelter them in this way, I’m taking it. 

You also cannot know for certain what happens behind closed doors. Parents who you thought were on the same page as you with the same values and morals could be allowing your kid to watch an R-rated film when they have no business seeing that movie at a sleepover. 

I remember I went to a sleepover at a friend’s house when I was around 10 or 11 years old. Our parents were friends and my mom and dad trusted them. We watched a movie that was far too mature for our age and I remember being really uncomfortable. I don’t recall where my friend’s parents were or if they were even home. I never told anyone because I felt ashamed even though none of it was my fault. 

Today, an R-rated movie seems like no big deal compared to what kids can see with the swipe of a screen or opening up of a social media app. Common Sense Media revealed in 2019 that 42% of kids have a smartphone by age 10. That number shoots up to 71% by age 12. The access kids have to literally anything they want to see, read, hear or watch on the Internet is unprecedented – and they know how to use it. 

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The British Board of Film Classification conducted a large survey on kids and pornography in 2020 and the results are sobering. The survey showed that children as young as 7 years old have viewed pornography while more than half of kids ages 11-13 years old have seen it. And parents are clueless. Seventy-five percent of parents surveyed said their kids haven’t seen pornography but, surprise, more than half of the kids of those parents said that yes, they had indeed viewed it. 

When reporting on the survey, the Telegraph wrote : “The study shows that underaged girls tend to view porn to learn what to do during sexual encounters so that they can ‘meet the perceived [porn-inspired] expectations of boys.’ These young girls also fearfully believe that boys consider ‘aggressive sexual behavior’ to be ‘normal’ because of porn.” 

The study also showed that when kids are younger, more than 80% of the porn they viewed was unintentional. I really don’t care if viewing porn was intentional or not. There are so few barriers to kids accessing these kinds of life-altering images and videos that I cannot, in good conscience, let my daughters be exposed to the possibility of seeing it at the homes of their friends during a sleepover that I could have prevented.

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I hate saying no to my children when they want to enjoy time with their friends but this isn’t a line in the sand. This is a concrete wall. 

Much of my job revolves around following the news and I see the worst of the worst every day. Unfortunately, people are capable of so much destruction to the most innocent in our society and there is no friendship worth the possibility of putting my children in harm’s way during their most formative and impressionable years. 

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