For my seventh birthday, I had three of my best girlfriends spend the night. We ordered pizza, ate cake, and painted each others’ nails. It was fun and completely innocent. As my oldest child approaches five years old, he loves to inform me about all of the various birthday parties he will have. Lasertag, bowling, and trampoline parks have been mentioned, but never once has he asked for a friend to stay the night…yet. I know it will become popular, and many of his friends may stay the night at other kids’ houses – but until they are teenagers, my husband and I have agreed that our boys will not attend sleepovers in friends’ homes. We feel this is the best decision for our family! Here are our three big reasons why we will not allow sleepovers :
As a parent, this topic evokes so many emotions including anger, fear, anxiety, and disgust. There’s no real way to know just how many kids are sexually assaulted annually, because most instances go unreported. Many times sexual abuse isn’t reported because the child’s abuser is a friend or relative. Kids may also be reluctant to tell because the abuser has gained his/her trust and told them that it’s “their secret.” Not wanting to hurt the abuser, the child therefore keeps “their secret.” According to recent studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, nearly 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. In addition, he found that children are MOST vulnerable to child sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13. Obviously most parents are not pedophiles or abusive, BUT I’d rather not take the chance and regret it.
While the Internet is my best friend at times, it can be a dangerous place for kids. One can learn about anything with the few clicks of a button. At home our laptops are password protected and our children are always supervised when they want to use it. The laptop is in the kitchen, and I can see which game my boys are playing at all times. However, I know that some parents do allow their kids to peruse the internet unsupervised, which is fine, but having young boys I worry about pornography. Pornography is rampant on the Internet, and all it takes is clicking on the wrong ad or website for one to become engaged.
Television is also a concern. When I was young cable television was pretty harmless. There was some sexual content and maybe occasional cursing, but NOTHING like today. (Did I mention we don’t have cable for this very reason?) When we did have cable, I remember seeing commercials that showed sex, drug use, and violence very early in the evening – much too early for little viewers’ eyes to see. My husband and I are pretty strict about what the boys can watch, and I do not want years of protecting their eyes to be undermined by one night watching television at a friend’s house.
My husband owns several guns, mainly for protection. He keeps them locked away out of the kids’ reach. We’ve had talks about daddy’s guns not being toys and why it’s important that they are kept in a safe place. We do our due diligence at home of keeping our guns locked and out of the reach of our children. Coupling our boys’ love affair with guns and their overwhelming curiosity, I am uncomfortable allowing them to spend the night at someone’s house if the same level (or more!) of safe gun ownership is not practiced. Medicine/prescription drugs play a role in household safety as well. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 52 million people in the U.S. over the age of 12, have used prescription drugs non-medically. Kids can easily gain access to medicine/drugs at a friends house if improperly supervised.
Although we will not allow sleepovers, there are still ways for my kids to have fun with their peers. We have gone camping with friends and shared cabins with other families while on vacation. And, of course, there will be tons of awesome non-overnight birthday parties in our future! I know that banning sleepovers can be viewed as “sheltering” my kids, however, while they are still young and impressionable, I want to guard their hearts as much as I can. I’m sure my kids will resent me at some point for establishing the “no sleepovers” rule, but for me, the risk does not out weigh the reward.