It’s not hard to picture the scene – your child and four of their besties for a sleepover, each one sitting silently, cell phone in hand in dark bedroom, curtains closed! Don’t you feel like throwing up just a little bit?! But there is something worse than this image – it is the paralysed parent, unable to call it for what it is in case you embarrass your child and the friends threaten to never return.
And of course when we challenge our kids quietly after everyone has left, we are told “we were socialising mom”, “why are you being like that”, “nothing can go wrong, we’re not stupid.”
But plenty can go wrong and plenty does: we know that in the wee hours of the morning, sleepovers are the perfect forum to take a compromising photo of a sleeping friend, to watch and laugh as it goes viral, to post pics to those uninvited to the party, to peer-pressure someone into sending a nude, to prank and dare and use the group power to belittle or deceive someone online who is at home on their own, to binge on an all-night gaming session, to search adult sites at length, to discover the dark net, to talk to strangers, to fake your own identity…the list is endless! And we know this because at Klikd, we hear about sleepovers going horribly wrong from parents and teachers on a daily basis.
And it is this range of worrying behaviours which threaten our ability as parents’ to provide a duty of care to our children’s friends – let alone, of course, our own child.
So what’s a parent to do?
You want your child to have a good time. You don’t want to be ‘that’ parent. But your duty of care to your child and his/her friends outweighs being your child’s bestie.
- First prize is to get a few parents together to decide collectively what you will ALL do regarding sleepovers and devices – that way one parent can’t be played up against the other. If time is scarce just pop a WhatsApp group together, share your thoughts on what your boundaries might be and say ‘who is in?’ – The buy in from other parents is almost always immediate!
- Typically we make choices around devices based on our children’s developmental stage but this is one time where the rule does not apply! The decision to have or not to have devices at a sleepover is a value-based decision: – your values. Not theirs. Set the rules that sit right with you! And stick to them! You will be amazed at the outcome! Play, creative play – laughter
- Be clear on what YOU as a parent are comfortable with before the sleepover happens – Chat it through with your child so there are no surprises. Maybe it’s no devices on a sleepover at all, maybe it’s one hour on ‘how to make slime’ videos or one Minecraft session and then everyone hands them in until the next day. It’s your call, your values, your decision.
- Rule one is to remember you can’t be held hostage in your own home! If your child doesn’t like you for a few minutes/hours/days – it’s okay. They have friends, you are not one of them.
A couple of guidelines:
- For young children
- Consider making the sleepover a phone-free (or even internet-free) zone
- Make sure kids know they can use your phone if they want to call mum or dad
- For older kids
- Allow reasonable access to allow for a few photos and selfies
- Make sure they know beforehand that they’ll be asked to hand over their phones at a pre-arranged time.
- If you haven’t set a up collective parent agreement, be sure to let parents of children know what your sleepover policy will be, and provide your own phone number as an emergency contact.
The rules may well change our children get (quite a bit) older, but for tweens and young teens it should be a no- brainer that they don’t keep their phones on them overnight. As it would be anyway if they were at home!
Sarah and Pam