Sleepovers: Should Parents Allow Them?
Three things to consider before your kids pack that sleepover bag.
By Melanie Hempe, BSN, Founder of ScreenStrong
You’re probably not planning to allow your kids’ friends to introduce them to porn or graphic violence this summer. But if they’re heading elsewhere for a sleepover, that just might be what’s on the unwritten agenda. The success of a sleepover doesn’t just depend on the screen limits at other families’ homes, it depends on much more than that. And the risks may be too high.
Peer pressure affects all kids; even yours.
Peer pressure at a sleepover is powerful. Your child’s developing brain is programmed to seek novelty and risk, and these tendencies are heightened with the social conformity that comes in the company of peers. Peer pressure by the group causes poor decisions that your otherwise low-key kid would never be tempted to engage in alone. When kids find novel images, the first impulse is to share their discovery with friends far and wide. Additionally, older siblings at the host home can add to the peer pressure and create potential for negative influences.
Not all parents have the same parental controls that you do.
It is impossible for even the most diligent supervising adult to monitor all the activity on each guest screen and the hacking skills of each child. Plus, sleepovers are the perfect time for show and tell. What’s more fun than sharing screen hacks with the whole group like bypassing a router pass-code, working around smartphone controls, setting up VPNs, or using Google Translate to find porn?
Porn viewing can happen by accident and in an instant.
The abundance of small private screens in a private setting makes sleepovers a perfect place for novel, scary porn viewing; a temptation that kids can’t resist. Your child’s ability to resist temptation is also compromised at night when he or she is tired. In my work with parents, I find that elementary age is the most common age for first-time porn exposure which usually occurs at someone else’s house.
Porn viewing is more serious than you may realize and not to be treated lightly. Neurologically speaking, the images of graphic and novel content are captured and permanently stored in your child’s memory center. Like little microchips of data, these images can be revisited over and over; never forgotten and toxic.
Many parents make the mistake of thinking the solution to safe sleepovers is having a warning talk with their child. But experience shows us that these talks, while necessary, do nothing to protect our kids. Is it possible to enjoy the benefits of a sleepover with none of the harm? Yes. Here are three ScreenStrong solutions to the sleepover dilemma (note: this goes for all ages, elementary through high school):
A half-over is when your child still attends the party but you pick her up before bedtime. This is a great solution because she gets the benefits of social time without all the dangers of the un-monitored, late night screen exposure. It is truly a win-win. Many families have found this solution to be a lifesaver. Once a core group of families start this practice, half-overs become the norm and your community will follow.
Simply explain to the host parents that your child would love to come, but that you have found that she does much better with a late pick-up once the activities are winding down. Most parents are relieved with this structure and are happy to participate.
Another idea is to plan a campout in the backyard (with adult supervision) complete with tents, hammocks, and sleeping bags, but with zero extension cords or screens. It is easier to leave your technology inside when spending time in nature. Add a fire pit in order to cook dinner and roast marshmallows, and you create memories that last a lifetime.
More non-sleepover social activities
Non-tech time is the only time your child will have real social interaction. Sleepovers with unlimited screens are not a true social activity. When you establish a routine of having more in-person, face-to-face activities at your house, you eliminate the need for sleepovers. Try our ScreenStrong Friday Fun Nights instead!
The days of pillow fights and prank phone calls are a thing of the past. Much more is at stake at today’s sleepovers. Chart a different course and do not make this more stressful than it needs to be. In order to avoid sleepover disasters, as well as issues with addictive screens, take our free 7-Day ScreenStrong Challenge. Join the ScreenStrong Families Facebook Group of like-minded parents as we discuss ScreenStrong solutions and answers to raising the next generation of screen healthy kids.
Melanie Hempe, BSN, is the founder and executive director of ScreenStrong, a national nonprofit organization that offers a countercultural approach to eliminate childhood screen dependency, but one that just might save your kids. Melanie has developed cutting-edge programs that empower parents to pause video games and social media for kids and teens through late adolescence. Her three books can be found on Amazon: Will Your Gamer Survive College?, Can Your Teen Survive—and Thrive—Without a Smartphone? and The ScreenStrong Solution: How to free your child from addictive screen habits.
ScreenStrong is committed to rescuing this screen-driven generation, one family at a time.
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