Creative outlets are so important for kids, but what happens when they start writing… adult content?
One mum is concerned that her 16-year-old is "basically" writing porn and is wondering how she should handle the situation.
"For context, they're a relatively smart, compassionate teenager and they love to write," the mum wrote into The Slate's advice column.
"I was snooping and I shouldn't have been. But they've also been diagnosed with depression, and throughout quarantine it's felt like they've been hiding something from me."
Saying she was "fearing the worst" about her child's mental health, the woman looked at their iPad and found a draft for some 'fan fiction' they were writing.
"I haven't realised until now that they've gotten into writing fan fiction," she wrote, saying most of the writing was "fine" apart from some swearing, but some was borderline pornographic
"Has some swearing I don't like them using, but I get that it's a creative outlet for them," she reasoned. "But then I found some other fan fiction they've also written, and it's very … mature. And adult.
"I don't know where they learned half of this stuff. It feels like a year ago they didn't even know what a condom was, and now they're writing explicit and age-inappropriate fan fiction.
"Do I give them 'the talk'? Ground them? Take away their iPad so they can't write?"
Although the worried mum may feel the need to do something, advice columnist Nicole Chung swiftly recommended doing absolutely nothing at all.
"On your list of Things Not to Do, add 'confronting my 16-year-old about their fan fiction' and look at it often should you need a reminder," she urged the mum.
"There's a pandemic and they're depressed, but even if these things weren't true, writing fan fic is obviously an important and needed outlet for them.
"We are all of us, at any/every age, entitled to hobbies and fandom and fantasies and a rich and private inner life."
The next snippet of advice given is probably something the concerned mother would prefer not to think about.
"They are 16. They could be having sex by now, never mind reading and writing about it," Chung pointed out.
Chung advised the woman to talk to her teen about sex and intimacy, bodily autonomy, internet safety and the importance of maintaining their privacy online, but she didn't see the point in bringing up the fan fiction.
"Stop creeping on their iPad," she also told the mum. "Don't read any more of their stories. Let your teen live—and have their erotic fan fiction too."