I would really appreciate some perspective and ideas on this situation with my 10yo DD. If I'm not handling this right, please don't flame me - this is my oldest child and I just don't know how to think of her as she begins to leave childhood. When I was that age, we were all still kids!
At the beginning of this school year (5th grade), DH and I allowed DD to have her own email address. We created an internet use agreement, which we went over and all agreed to (not sure if it's remembered on a regular basis). Any time she wants to email (or receive email) from someone new, I have to approve the person first. She has a limited amount of screen time daily, and doesn't have a cell phone or anything.
Part of the agreement was that we, the parents, have the right to access her files at any time. In practical terms, I told her that that meant that I would occasionally peruse her email and other stuff, not to read details (unless I had a serious concern), but to get a general sense of who she is writing, general topics being discussed, and what she is looking at on the internet.
DD is experiencing her first love and it is reciprocated. She is at a Friends school (our first year) and there are only 19 kids in the 5th grade, so the boys and girls do play together both in and out of school anyway. She is exchanging frequent emails with this boy, whom we have gotten to know a little, and whose mother I know somewhat and respect. A couple weeks ago while glancing through her emails I saw the phrase "We can't tell our parents." So at that point I read on, realized there was a secret code, became more concerned, and began basically reading as much history as I could.
The code they created is incredibly basic, and they are writing emails partially in them, and also just in regular English. They discussed kissing (and hiding it from their parents - the topic of the above sentence), going on a date, about having dreams about each other, and he wrote her a song. They also simply enjoy each other's company, and talk on the phone sometimes playing lateral thinking puzzles and stuff.
It is lovely and so sweet. I am thrilled that she has talked with me about just a little bit of it. I am disturbed by the discussions about hiding things from parents, even though, of course this is what kids do - but she is only 10. DD has had the basics of sex ed, taught at church (the OWL program if any of you are familiar with it) - for her age, which is mainly talking about puberty, the basics of sex, and about relationships and self respect. So while she is not completely out there in the wild, we have never discussed these things in a live context of her actually liking someone.
I haven't yet told her that I found something concerning and therefore started reading her email - I was too shocked (why?! guess I'm getting old.) but I would like to clear that up.
Some thoughts/questions I need help with:
I feel like I have to supervise them way more directly if he comes over to play
What if they do kiss, is that terrible?
Is my daughter (or either of them) thinking of other things to try? We've had this conversation before, but now that there's an actual relationship, how to I talk about this without putting ideas in her head?
I feel like I need to give actual guidelines about when it's ok to do stuff. Like, holding hands comes first. When is kissing ok?
She asked me not to tell the boy's mom. That's ok, right?
I don't want to keep invading her privacy but I am afraid. I don't want to worry that she is plotting illicit things!
Thanks for reading this long post and to anyone who has been through this, and can offer some advice!