When I was in sixth grade, long before technology appeared on the scene, I attended a sleepover where I was treated in such a way that I believed girls were untrustworthy for years. I was a victim of a lack of supervision and a host friend whom I discovered had a cruel lack of understanding of virtue, privacy or kindness.
I know many sleepovers aren’t that way. But more moms than ever agree that most sleepovers aren’t worth the risks. Even when there is a gathering during the day, moms of kids with phones are checking kids’ phones at the door and letting parents know that they’ll be returned when the parents pick them up, or planning to do things not involving computers or technology unless the play is completely supervised.
Kids are just having fun, for the most part. But a quick shot of someone in their underwear for laughs can end up on the Internet so quickly and NEVER be retrieved, to be viewed by anyone of any age or intention. It’s simply fact that most of our kids know more about finding “interesting” things on the Internet or in video games than we do.
Secondly, our guards go down as the sun does. The sleepier we get, the less careful we are—and the less vigilant parents may be. And that can easily cause trouble.
What movies are being watched? What games are being played? Who decides if they are appropriate? Do we really know the parents involved WELL?
A friend of mine is agonizing over approaching a friend who is permitting her young daughter to regularly spend the night at a friend’s house. The father in the home has been recently divorced and often has girlfriends spend the night. She has good reasons to be concerned for the girl’s safety and developing views about marriage and intimacy.
Whether promiscuity is taking place live or onscreen, pornography is mainstream now. One out of three men are addicted, and so are many women. If not addicted, many are just numb. I walked into a house the other day where an explicit show was being aired on a large screen behind the people I was talking to. They never even considered that I might be embarrassed or offended. Do our kids know what porn is and to call home for a pick-up if they see any?
Overnight or for a day, we can’t afford not to consider what our children are exposed to in others’ homes, or leave them completely unsupervised in our own homes.
If you are hosting a day or night gathering, have a talk with your son or daughter about the importance of including others, appropriate and inappropriate talk and actions, and maybe a code word for trouble. Stress the responsibility of making your house a safe place for everyone and having great fun while honoring God.
For a start, why not pray briefly after all guests have arrived and checked phones, that the event would honor God and everyone would honor each other?
Following are tips for sleepovers at your house or someone else’s that may be helpful.
- Phones: Check at the door. Let the parents know they can call you in an emergency and keep your phone close, or allow children to call home on your phone. Provide some kind of photo op when the kids are picked up if you like, or share pictures you have taken.
- Movies or TV: Choose one movie or two that are unequivocally God-honoring.
- Games: Plan games that are active and allow for those who are not athletic.
- Modesty: Provide a room for changing which may be used one person at a time, especially if a pool is involved.
- Privacy: Keep all doors open unless modesty is involved. Check in or walk by often, bringing snacks or just asking, “Everyone doing ok?” Be involved just enough to be friendly without seeming to hover.
- Plan: Have a basic plan of activities and how time will be spent. It doesn’t have to be followed to the T, but don’t just expect the event to “happen.” Have crafts ready, play equipment ready, snacks and meals planned (have kids help make them!), etc. No planning often leads to trouble.
- Cry for help: Have a code word ready in case your child needs to come home. If they see pornography, are treated poorly by an adult or peer or feel uncomfortable IN THE LEAST, pick them up. Don’t hesitate. (If your child doesn’t know what pornography is, they should – even if they’re young. Then they can tell you immediately if they see it and know to turn away. I suggest Kristen Jensen’s book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures.)
- Setting the example: Encourage your child to take the lead. If they feel as though too much video game time is going on, let them be the one to suggest playing ball or starting a craft.
- Strategies for escape: Let your child know it’s okay to walk away from gossip or dirty jokes, etc. All they have to do is say they need to use the bathroom. If it’s too much to handle, call home for a pick-up. If your child says they’re not feeling well, they won’t be lying.
- Know the parents: Do your homework. Know the parent/parents well. Ask what movies and technology will be watched or played. Have your child bring a book or something they know is safe in case they need to spend some time alone, and have them ask their host respectfully for some time by themselves to take a break.
- Modesty as a priority: Let your child know their privacy is important. If they need to change, let them know that they should do so in a locked room by themselves.
- Prayer: Pray before they go and while they’re gone.