Kids’ sleepovers have gotten complicated.

Nowadays, parents need to be concerned about late-night exposure to porn, violent video games, and pressure to post inappropriate videos or photos, in addition to all the non-tech worries.

Here’s the deal. You have important safety rules for your children. Most likely, their friends’ families also have rules. But have you ever ASKED those families what the rules are, to make sure your child is safe while they’re there?

We encourage parents to ask basic safety questions, so they know their child is safe, before saying “yes” to a sleepover.

Our own Director, Lisa Honold, was recently quoted in a The Wall Street Journal story titled “Sleepovers Have Parents Worried About Midnight Gadget Use.”

Before sleepovers, what should you ask?

  • TECH What are your technology policies? Do you limit time online? Do you have an internet filter to block inappropriate content?
  • ALLERGIES & MEDICATION Any food allergies or medication I need to be aware of?
  • WHO IS PRESENT & SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS Will you be there all evening? Who else lives here/will visit? Where will the kids sleep?
  • GUNS Do you have guns on the property? If so, how are they secured?
  • DRUGS, CIGARETTES, VAPING, ALCOHOL & PRESCRIPTION MEDS Does anyone use these? Are any of these items accessible to kids?

One more easy and important step: put the sleepover address into a sexual predator registry website to make sure there are no registered sex offenders living in the house.

It’s crazy not to ask

Since publishing these questions, we’ve gotten some pushback from parents.

“My friends would call me a LUNATIC if I suddenly started asking these questions! I can’t question their parenting!” is one comment we received.

Our reply: “You’re a lunatic NOT to ask these questions. You’re not protecting your child if you put them in that situation without asking about their safety first.”

You’re trusting another adult with your baby. Shouldn’t you be brave enough to ask a few safety questions? To assume you know how another adult will treat your child is CRAZY. We have to ASK.

Here’s a script for HOW to ask respectfully.

After all, other parents may think having loaded guns in the house unlocked is okay. They may think having wide-open access to the internet is just fine for their 10-year-old. They may even think supplying your teen with alcohol is no big deal…

Wouldn’t you want to know?

It’s time we normalize these questions and start to feel okay about asking “crazy” questions that could save your child’s life. It’s not easy being a responsible parent. But the more we ask, the easier it gets. And the more we ask, the more normal these questions get.

What if I don’t like their answers?

First, pat yourself on the back for asking and finding out that their idea of safety wasn’t going to work for your family.

Then offer some alternatives.

  • Host the sleepover at your house
  • Make it a “Late-over” where you pick up your child at 10pm instead of having it be a sleepover
  • Offer to meet somewhere neutral and make time to get to know the parents while your kids are hanging out

Bottom line: It’s okay to be different

It’s okay to set up safety rules that are different from other families’ rules. Never be afraid to ask questions and to suggest a different option if you are not comfortable with what the other families rules are.

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