Can I click on what I read in her group app?

Mother: “With her permission, I view the WhatsApp messages in the group app of my 10-year-old daughter. One of the boys says in it that he plays a computer game. Fortnite played with a 33 year old dude. And that he said he wanted to “fuck” a ‘skin’ (female figure). I don’t think it’s normal for him to share this in the group app. Except for one other boy, no one responds.

„If I were the mother of that boy, I would like to know that my son of 11 Fortnite plays with an adult man of 33. And especially that this man makes such inappropriate comments. When I report this to my daughter, she forbids me to contact the boy’s mother. she doesn’t want to snitchen.

“So I couldn’t check with that boy. Maybe he acted tough? On the other hand, an 11-year-old kid wouldn’t invent such a thing. Or has he been tricked by a young player pretending to be an adult? Should I approach the mother now or let it go?”

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Gather information

Patti Valkenburg: “A classic moral dilemma. Mother runs the risk of betraying her daughter’s trust or compromising her in front of her classmates. Being a snitch can be very serious for a child and lead to social exclusion. On the other hand, there is the risk that a classmate is in danger. The chance of that is small, but not zero. According to research by the British National Crime Agency (NCA), there are adults who use the chat function of Fortnite sexually approach children.

“Mother could gather more background information. Understanding the context is important. Children can express themselves uninhibitedly. Are the daughter and other children in the group shocked, or just the mother? And are other parents also reading along, or is this mother the only one? If the latter is the case, her daughter may be extra embarrassed to be a snitch.

“At this age it is still good to watch online, also to help children with what you do in these kinds of situations. It is already instructive when a mother explains to her daughter the dilemma: that parents read along to protect children. If parents see something undesirable, it is also difficult to do nothing. “Do you agree that this isn’t possible?” We call this autonomy-promoting parenting.”

Don’t jeopardize trust

Peter Nikken: “It regularly happens that adults participate in online games that children play, and that causes problems. Children have a different level of acting and game insight, and when they lose to older teammates can be mercilessly kicked. Bad language is also a problem. There is a lot of swearing in the game.

“It is advisable that parents watch who their children are playing online with. Nor do we think it normal for a complete stranger to join children playing in the schoolyard. We want children to have safe places to play wherever they are.

“Mother cannot jeopardize the relationship of trust with her daughter here. It is special that she is allowed to watch the WhatsApp group, she must not tamper with that trust. What she can do is ask the children’s school for a parent evening about online safety. If the school has a newsletter, it could be about safe online gaming, or about language use in the WhatsApp group.”