My Daughter’s Digital Duel, I Vote DISLIKE

Digital parenting can #suckit.

As many of you know, both of my kids are rather plugged in. I mean…PLUGGED IN. They game, they blog, they game, they do their homework online, they game, they watch tv online, they do EVERYTHING on their iPads or computers. So it should come as zero surprise that any discipline in this house tends to be a direct ‘take away’ of said plugged-in-ed-ness.

My 9-year old plays Animal Jam. She chats. She makes videos. She trades. All of these things are done under my watchful eye-I check her chats, I watch her videos, she tells me about her trades. I hear all the drama when someone makes a bad trade. I hear all the drama when someone wants to make a video and records her and her friends. Up until now we haven’t had a single issue.

Notice I said… until now.

The other day said 9-year old came down the stairs in tears and hysterical. She made a friend on Animal Jam she thought she could trust. He asked if he could borrow her rare spike collar to make a video. She agreed. He took the spike and bolted. She reported him, drama ensued. She asked if I could ask for help from Animal Jam support.

No problem.

H and abucka

I dutifully sent my Motherly email and asked them to check out her story and his and hopefully get her item back. If not, lesson learned. In the meantime he was blocked from her den and her chats so he couldn’t bother her any longer.

Or so I thought.

She unblocked him without me knowing and attempted to retrieve her spike herself. Continuing the drama with him calling names and her demanding her item. Yup. This is what goes on in the digital 9-year old world. HIGH DRAMA.

I found out by accident, as she casually mentioned in a Skype chat with her girlfriend that he was calling her names. Busted. So I wrote another email to Animal Jam support apologizing for my daughter having unblocked the alleged thief and taking matters into her own hands, when we had clearly handed it over to their authority. And then grounded her from the game for a week.

You’d think I’d have killed a gazillion kittens and bunnies. There was door slamming and tears. There was moping. There is currently, next to me, many sighs of boredom.

We’ve been very careful about allowing the kids their own digital spaces without invading their privacy, but also making sure they are in safe places online and are only exposed to what we feel they can handle. But I have to admit, the kids are both playing in worlds that are essentially Second Life or online playdates. With that comes real life disputes and real life hurt feelings and real life everything.

Of course we had a very long talk about her online habits. Trusting someone she had only met the day before (believe me, I worked the Frozen angle on that one into the ground) and making videos about other players, respecting privacy, and informing parents of any activity that isn’t right.

I suppose something like this could just as easily happen in the bike-riding, come home when the street lights turn on, childhoods of our past. The boy down the street might have asked to borrow her shiny, rare, Garbage Pail Kid card to make a video and promise to give it back after. Then runs off into his house and shuts the doors and pulls the window shades. I mean…I suppose that could happen. And I suppose this Mom would have then gotten on the phone with his Mom where she needed to investigate if he committed the accusations. Then I suppose my daughter could have snuck out to go see said boy and fight with him again to get her card back. That’s all very childhood and kid-like….right? Right?

Ugh. All I know is I’m exhausted from having moderated her first digital feud and our first digital foul. And her first digital grounding.

Who knew grounding a kid from an online world could be just as devastating as grounding them from real life?



  1. Lucretia says:

    Absolutely, totally, utterly WITH you on this!!

    It’s harder on those of us who *do* supervise everything our kids do online – because there are so many parents out there who don’t. And we can’t even walk down the street and ring the doorbell or call them up and say “this thing happened between our kids.”

    But, it is part & parcel of raising digital natives. We have to help them “get” it at some point, right? Bring on the heavy sighs and “I’m so bored” mantras.

  2. Suzanne says:

    We had a very likable thief in the neighborhood when my daughter was younger. It can indeed be just like that in real life! Never fun for anyone. Such drama!

  3. I’m heading in the same direction. My kid grew up with an iphone in her face and now has her own blog, attend conferences with me, etc. She’s 7 now, and I’m sure when she gets more independent with her writing and typing skills, that all hell will break loose.
    For now, I am treating her blogging and all related online anything as a job. She understands I’m a freelance writer and that I need to be online to promote and connect. She also knows what an editor is and that deadlines are the most important thing in the world. So I’m using it to my advantage.
    As far as Eliana is concerned, I’m her editor and she is my employee. Anything and everything she does must be approved by her editor prior to it going online, just like my work for Latina must be approved my by my own editors. And because everything I do publicly reflects back on my column and blog, she understands how the internet is not segmented by tabs but, rather, one giant game of connect the dots. That’s how I explain to her that once something is online, it’s always online. But maybe the biggest point I drive home is that as her editor, she has to earn and keep my trust. It’s her responsibility to check in first before she does anything solo online. And her online happy place is the first thing I yank if she misbehaves or doesn’t have her schoolwork done.
    So far, it’s working. Then again, it takes her an hour to type out a simple email to her BFF, so I’ve got that working in my favor. I’m sure that in 2 years, I’m going to be crying to you for help.
    Also? I love that you used the Frozen angle here.

  4. Yes to EVERYTHING everyone said… I love the term ‘digital natives’ Lucretia. They truly are growing up very differently than we did. And I love that Suzanne had a ‘likable’ thief… I never thought about ‘likable’ thief’s before.

    And oh my dear Pauline. You have NO IDEA…yes, you will be calling for help. Just as I’m calling for help now.

    If I haven’t said it out loud ‘HELP HELP HELP HELP HELP!’

    BTW my Mom is laughing her ass off at me right now. She thinks this is all just hysterical.

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