Remember going to sleepovers as a kid? So much giggling and fun! With summer coming, most of our kids will be begging us to participate in this rite of passage that kids love. But when they ask, should we really say yes? Kids are only thinking of how much fun they’ll have and what would happen if they got left out. Meanwhile, we see the dangers and really need to weigh the pros and cons of sleepovers before we roll up the sleeping bags and send them on their way.
Really, there are so many potential positives and negatives about sleepovers that when my kids ask, my mind starts to swirl. And then they start to beg. So let’s hash it out before they ask. Here are 3 things to consider about sleepovers and the vital conversation to have if you allow them to go.
1. The Potential for Sexual Abuse
According to RAINN, 93 percent of childhood sexual abuse perpetrators are people their victims know. When a friend of mine was in elementary school, his soccer team won a championship game. The coach invited the whole team to his house for a sleepover. My friend’s mom had a bad feeling about it; she couldn’t put her finger on it, but she didn’t feel comfortable with the coach. Her son was devastated when she said he couldn’t attend. But years later, they learned that many of those young boys had been sexually abused. The coach was convicted and went to jail. Listen to your gut.
2. The Potential for Exposure to Pornography
The reality is kids can be exposed to pornography pretty easily these days. They spend an average of 9 hours a day on screen-based media (Common Sense Media). Even if your child doesn’t have a smartphone yet, a 2020 study revealed that 60 percent of 10- and 11-year olds do (fightthenewdrug.org).
These phones (as well as other screens) need to have some heavy safeguards to avoid exposure to pornography, like filters and age-appropriate settings. Many kids stumble upon it unintentionally and then they want to impress their friends with what they found. Your child could be the recipient of this content if the parents hosting the sleepover allow unrestricted screens in “private” places overnight, like a child’s bedroom.
3. The Potential for Exposure to Other Content That Isn’t Age-Appropriate
This may come as a surprise, but other parents (even people you know and respect) don’t always have the same standards you do. For example, you might not allow cursing in your home, but other families do. You might restrict your kids to age-appropriate movies, songs, or video games, but other families don’t.
Sometimes there may be older siblings in the house who set the limits for what is seen and heard; R-rated movies, songs with explicit lyrics, and violent video-games are just a few that may come up. Younger siblings are, at the very least, seeing or hearing bits and pieces of content you only might find appropriate for a much older kid (and even then, it might not be healthy in your eyes).
This really goes without saying, but sleepovers are some of the best memory-makers in childhood. Staying up too late, eating junk food, whispering after the parents have yelled, “This time we’re serious! Go to sleep!” They are great for helping kids build deeper friendships. Plus, your kids get to practice their manners and see the family dynamic in another home.
The Conversation to Have Before They Go
- Talk about what to do if they are exposed to pornography.
- Come up with an “out”—what they can say or do if they think something that happens is wrong.
- Tell them that if they think their protests aren’t being heard, or if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe at any time, they immediately should call or text a parent.
Considering all the pros and cons of sleepovers, you have the right to say yes or no and you don’t have to justify it to anyone. Parents need to support one another if we decide not to allow sleepovers because it’s not always a black-and-white decision. We have to be as smart as we possibly can, and that’s all we are trying to do. So respect another mom’s “no” and don’t take it personally. Encourage your child to do the same.
What are the other pros and cons of sleepovers? Do you let your kids go?