A couple of days ago my wife came to me with a problem. Our 9 year old son had borrowed her Kindle to use the dictionary for his Bible lesson. When she got it back and turned it back on she found that the dictionary was at the entry for 'sex'. Time to panic! Tell him he can never use a dictionary again! Tell him he can never borrow the Kindle again! What if he had typed that in on the computer's internet search box? (Let me just take a moment to encourage all of you dads, and moms, too, get an internet filter if you don't have one. Safe Eyes is a good one, you can adjust it to your family's needs. Sometimes you can get a discount, so search for a coupon code. It is a better investment than you can imagine.)
After the initial panic we discuss real possibilities and what to do. I imagine all the reasons that it could have happened. Surely that word was not in his Bible lesson. Maybe someone simply hit the next page or back a page button and he was really looking at a word on another page. One of the words was in the s's. My wife quickly went back to the last search and found that sure enough, he had typed it in! He intentionally went there, no accident here. Why can't they make those words 17 letters long and impossible for a 9 year old to spell instead of 3 easy letters? More panic time! Our son is going to become a rapist or a serial killer, he is already a sex-addict, he was around some teen boys last week what did he hear from them, what are we going to do?
After this second wave of panic it was time to be rational again. I always try to do the actual speaking, acting, and parenting during these brief periods of lucidity. I was not in a position to talk to him so I told my wife to just ask him about it. His explanation was not totally acceptable, but did open the door. He was supposed to find a synonym for 'vex'. My son is a rhymer (We have often had to tell him that just because a word sounds like another perfectly good word does not mean that the second word is a good word to say. This has been going on since he was about 3.) and vex made him think of... ... you guessed it 'sex'. So he looked it up. Now the question is what do we do?
I realize that there are innumerable answers to that last question because of the variables involved. My wife always bemoans the fact that there is not a parenting book that tells you exactly what you should do in specific situations. The reason is simple, however, no two families face the same situations. We instead must take principles and apply them to the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves. That is not situational ethics, but our standard of ethics applied to situations. I once proposed this dilemna to a Bible class: Two men, Bob and Bill, are both driving 65 mph Bob is breaking the law and Bill is not how? We came up with about a dozen possible explantations that were all different and the consequences are different. How many possibilities can you think of? (As a class we came up with about a dozen.) As parents the challenge is to gather information about the situation, think about what principles apply, consider the possible consequences, and then act in the way that will be true to Christian principles and actions while bringing the best result. No wonder we make so many mistakes as parents.
So, what did we do? This time my wife asked him about the situation and got his explanation. Then she told him that if he had questions about things like this he should ask us and not go to some other source (This brought a question of 'What are genitals?' Followed by the simple explanation that they are what makes boys boys and girls girls). She reminded him that he was only to do what he had been told to do and what he knew was ok with her Kindle or on any computer. He didn't get a spanking or any other punishment this time, but a warning that there would be punishment for future misdeeds. Were we too soft? Are we stifling his curiosity? Time will tell.
I don't know about you, but one of the things I rely on in my fathering is my memory of what I thought and felt about things when I was a child. I remember those things that the grownups would not talk about and how curious I was about them. I also remember the appeal of something that was forbidden. Human beings are naturally curious and it's a good thing or we would not have most of the inventions we have today. Of course that curiosity also brings dangers. I believe one of the best ways to deal with this universal problem is to help children quench their curiosity in a safe and healthy environment by giving them accurate information on a simple level and then more details as they grow older and more mature. I believe this is similar to the approach God has taken revealing His will a little at a time over a period of hundreds of years rather than all at once. Paul even talks about the Old Law as a schoolmaster to bring people to Christ.