My 11-year-old brother has come out to me as a gay furry.
I was pretty taken aback, I won’t lie, but I tried to be supportive/encouraging and thanked him for confiding in me. But I’m worried about his safety in the furry community, which I am completely unfamiliar with but concerned about since he is only 11 years old and has put his username as "boy kisser" on some furry website. I am worried about bad people within the community taking advantage of him. He’s at a vulnerable age and has unlimited internet access pretty much 24/7 and my parents don’t see that as an issue. I also don’t want to out him to them in case they make him feel alienated from his hobby and/or his sexuality.
It’s not my job to parent him, but how do I talk to him about safety within the furry community? How do I talk to my parents to ensure they take his safety seriously whilst being understanding of his hobby?
Sera (age 21)
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You are a good sister. Although, yeah, you're not his mom, older siblings often work as surrogate parents. You are not obligated to be his parent, but you're doing great as an older sibling.
Anyway, when it comes to supervision, that's on your parents. And it isn't just about the furry community. Being online in general--furry or not--can be dangerous for kids who are as young as your brother (or older, too, honestly). There are all kinds of criminal, unsavory, bullying, and harmful people out there. Yes, there are definitely some in the furry community (mostly, I believe, these are pedos and other nasties who aren't really furry but they infiltrate the community to prey on vulnerable innocent kids, often luring them with porn).
I do recommend you talk to your parents, reminding them that unsupervised access to the internet leaves your brother vulnerable to predators, cyberbullies, and pedos (this is regardless of his being a furry and gay). Your parents are not alone in shirking their responsibilities in this area. As this PR Newswire story explains, about half of all American parents do not supervise their kids. That is a big mistake. Would your parents let your 11-year-old brother walk down a dark alley in a city with porn shops and adult video arcades? I doubt they would. The internet is the same thing. Make a wrong turn and you're in a dark place where you are in danger even though you're sitting at a desk, warm and comfy in your own home (see https://www.familyorbit.com/blog/the-risks-of-unsupervised-internet-access-for-kids-and-teens/).
Some resources you can recommend for them include:
In summation, the important issue here is keeping your brother safe. I know you're worried about outing him as gay or a furry, but that is really secondary. Honestly, at 11 years old, your brother is still exploring who he is, so we shouldn't draw any conclusions about that. It is important that parents perform a balancing act between keeping their kids safe yet allowing them to grow as people and not restricting them so much that they feel like they are being punished or that their mom and dad don't like them. It's hard! Being a parent is hard! But they need to try their best.
Finally, here is an editorial I wrote about the whole issue: https://www.askpapabear.com/letters/my-final-word-on-minors-in-the-fandom.
Thank you for being a caring sister.
Write again if you need to, and I promise I will respond more quickly now that I have recovered from the holidays.
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