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Hi all,

I have not been an active member here, but I have come to the mothering forums to search for answers from time to time. At the moment, I am distraught and heart-broken, having discovered my daughter's recent web searches. Please treat me gently, as I have already cried my eyes out and blamed myself more than you can imagine.

DD got her first laptop in August, after demonstrating responsible use of our family computer. At first, she had to ask permission for each website she wanted to visit, and we sat with her as she used the internet. This evolved into her having several safe websites that she had permission to use without supervision. This evolved into her being allowed to use the computer without permission and supervision. I should say that these evolutions were not conscious and intentional, but rather the natural relaxing of our guard.

The other day, I found her reading a very troubling sexual fantasy on the subreddit sexstories. She was mortified, and very eager for us to stop discussing it. I was desperate to know what had prompted this reading. She eventually told me that she had followed inappropriate links that had tickled her curiosity while searching for calligraphy.

I didn't want to hold her hostage and cause her shame, because I don't think there is any shame in sexual curiosity. I tried to have an open and frank discussion about why these things were interesting to her, or if she was seeking specific answers. The best answer she could give me was that she kept clicking because "it made her feel funny." I explained that curiosity about sexual things is a natural step in development that happens for tweens and teens, but that I have deep concerns about the way she is getting her information.

I went on a bit about how women in pornography are often degraded and treated more like a tool for a man's sexual gratification than as a person with dignity. I asked her if she had been able to see that for herself in some of the things she had watched/read, and she said that she had stopped watching/reading when she had encountered those things because "she didn't like those ones." I said that I was scared that if this was how she got her education on sex, that she would look at this as a kind of guidebook and think that this was how it is supposed to play out. She said, "Do I strike you as the kind of girl that would ever let another person do things to me that I don't want?" (Which gave me an immediate, if temporary, flood of relief.)

We had been spot checking her history from time to time, and never saw anything inappropriate, but after I left her that night, I combed through her internet history for the last three months. She was honest in how she encountered the pornography, and I can follow the whole sordid trail of curiosity, which includes stories, pictures, and videos. Apparently, that first trip down the rabbit hole left her with questions, because her further explorations all begin with google searches, which in themselves are a sad illustration of her fading innocence, starting with "inappropriate for kids" and growing ever more pornographic as she no doubt picked up vocabulary along the way.

I am feeling tremendous guilt for giving her the tool that was the undoing of her innocence in such a short time, but that is done, and cannot be fixed. At this point, I need to hear some different perspectives on how to move forward.

I am generally a very decisive and confident parent, but this came prematurely for me, and I am unprepared. (We have had discussions about sex before, which she primarily has characterized as "gross"; she's never had a real crush with romantic feelings - or if she has, she hasn't shared it.)

Part of me wants to take away her computer and lock down the internet. Part of me wants to help her find safer and cleaner ways to find what she's looking for. 100% of me wants to get into a time machine and travel back in time and handle the laptop thing entirely differently.

I don't know where to go from here. This all happened two days ago (although, from her internet history it's happened on 5 different days over the course of three months,) and for now, all devices have been put away, while I process where to go from here.

Hubby was very sexually repressed during his tween/teen years by religious parents, and suffered as a result. He is eager that we do not pass along similar repressive issues, and I agree with that. But at the same time, 11 is so much younger than I thought we'd be delving into this. So, I think it's really two issues we're dealing with: 1) how do I deal with my own heartbreak? and 2) how do we handle her explorations from here?

Thanks for reading. Also, if you are inclined to say something judgmental, just please know that I am a real person on the other end of this computer and I'm feeling pretty fragile at the moment. Please let your humanity supersede your superiority.
 

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I can't think of many things more embarassing than to have a "why did you click through to a sexual fantasy story?" conversation with your mom as a young teen. Particularly if your mom doesn't seem to believe that you don't have real sexual interest in the topic instead of curiousity. Being too frank can be just as repressive as refusing to broach the topic at all.

From what you've described, it seems more a case of "what on Earth is that??" than "ooh, that sounds just right for me".

Turn on safe search, get a book or two on woman-positive sex (make sure at least one covers female masturbation) and leave them on your family bookshelf, and put the computer out in a public space where you can glance over her shoulder from time to time without having to make a huge deal out of it.
 

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My son is close in age and I often worry about this same scenario playing out. Girls mature very quickly between age 11 and 13 and it came be a very confusing time. If I'd had access to internet, I probably would have done the same thing cause there was nothing more embarrassing in my mind than talking to my parents about my questions. Instead I sought out erotic books in the library... and got caught reading one once when my mom dropped by the library unexpectedly (I knew better than to check them out)... mortifying! As someone who grew up in a super strict religious home too, some things that would have helped is if my mom had explained what an orgasm was in relation to the female anatomy (leave the masturbation up to me to figure out... personally I don't think vibrators are an appropriate thing for a child to have and just sets them up for disappointing sexual experiences later as orgasms with a human are WAY different than with a vibrator...), and also what healthy protected sex is, and why it's so important. Unfortunately my parents opted for the "don't you dare ever have sex until you're married" route of sex ed.

As for the computer... research some good parental blocks and get them set up ASAP. Keep computers in a visible family area. We have a firm house rule that no media is allowed in the bedrooms. I've blocked web browsers on handheld devices (cell phone, iPad, iPod and DS) and on the Mac devices there are settings you can set up that limit access by ratings/age. I set up his laptop to auto send me reports on his activity, what hours he's online, and I've limited what hours he can login (sleep time basically).

Hope that helps...
 

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I just wanted to reach out to you as a mom and give a hug, because I can tell you are an open, honest, thinking mom that was just caught off guard, as you say, by how early this is coming up. The things I hear that are good are that she was willing to have these conversations with you up to this point instead of shutting down and just getting angry. Removing the laptop entirely is not likely a workable scenario, plus her curiosity is not the problem. I like the fact that she was willing to evaluate healthy behavior vs unhealthy behavior with you. Our modeling is much more powerful than we think in terms of healthy choices. I agree with others to turn on the available blocks (parental controls) that exist, make sure she is aware that you can check the laptop at any time (and must know the password), and keep the dialogue open.
 

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Honestly, I'm impressed with what your daughter was able to say to you. 5 times over 3 months doesn't seem to indicate an obsession. Be kind to yourself and your daughter - it doesn't sound like anything out-there abnormal happened or was driving this. I'd be upset and disturbed too, but I'd be glad my daughter was able to give me a generally accurate story of what happened and didn't just shut down.

For what it's worth, the internet brings us things more easily, but some of them were always there. I was much younger when a friend and I discovered her father's Playboys and Hustlers under a bed, and if you have unlimited time to read the "stories" those can be pretty disturbing.

Big hug, and I think you'll be OK once you get over the shock because it sounds like you've done a good job so far.
 

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We had something similar happen in our house around 9 months ago without 12 year old son. We found searches on our iPad that became progressively more sexual. Funny thing - we have 5 kids in our house, and it was easy to identify who did it because the searches were for animated pornography (and guess, what, there are drawings and animations of very popular cartoon/videogame characters out there! whoa! shock to us!). Anyway, because we weren't going to accuse the one child for it (no REAL proof anyway) we sat all our children down, ages 5-14 and rehashed the whole pornography talk. We explained that sexuality is all very normal, and good, and awesome, but that looking at things/pictures is not necessarily good and healthy for our bodies. We have always stressed health in our house, whether it is physical, mental, emotional - so bringing this back to a health issue, for us, was easy for them to understand. We told them that we were happy for them to read/learn about sexuality, but explained that pornographic images actually change brain chemistry and talked about health implications of that on a level they could comprehend. Since then we regularly check internet history and have not found a single thing. We looked for good web browser applications that help with this kind of thing, but honestly, I think they are all lacking. I think you did a great job navigating this. And I think this sort of happening is always more shocking for us than it is for the child! =)
 
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