My daughter just turned 10, and for her birthday she asked for a subscription to a kid-based MMORPG. I got it for her, but told her we needed to have a conversation before setting it up. Last night we sat down for our conversation, and I think I totally blew it and now she seems traumatized.
We started with a basic conversation on how not everyone online is who they seem, and that she shouldn’t give out personal information. I kept it light, like “In your game you’re a wizard with purple skin, and we know you’re not really a wizard and you have peach skin, so the person you meet who says they’re an 11-year-old boy with a mohawk could really be an eight-year-old girl with a ponytail,” etc. Through the course of our conversation, she asked why safety is an issue online, and I let her know, in generic terms, that sometimes people use online personas to manipulate or bully or hurt other people, and that sometimes it can spill over into offline life.
My kiddo is pretty trusting and upbeat, and perhaps I’m not as articulate as I had hoped, because she seemed to not quite grasp what I was telling her: “Mommy, that won’t really happen. There must only be like one or two people in the whole world that would try to pretend they’re someone else online to hurt a kid.”
I ended up telling my daughter (without specifics) that it happens more often than she might expect, and people who may do bad things don’t necessarily look like criminal masterminds or creepy strangers. I obviously really went wrong somewhere, and I don’t know where. I was trying to help keep her safe and now she’s traumatized.
Can I do damage control while still standing by my previous statements?