So, about this whole Furry thing... tweet from @MomsOfFurries
February 5, 2018 11:22 PM   Subscribe

FURRY FRIENDS, WE NEED SOME HELP! Could you guys share some terms for young Furries to avoid and parents to be on the lookout for? We ❤️ you all, but we're trying to help them find accounts and YT channels that are Safe for Young Furries.#SFYF #momsoffurries #welovethisfandom [SL tweet and attached thread.)

Literally a primer on anyone trying to navigate the myriad of existence online and off in these most complicated of times.

Parent with child online doing anything from Minecraft to furry chat rooms? Read.
posted by hippybear (44 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Parent with child online doing anything from Minecraft to furry chat rooms? Read

This is relevant to my needs, yes.
posted by Artw at 11:35 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Wish I could help, but non-furry and childless. Good goal though. Only thing I could bring up is bringing up common sense in approaching online affairs, and being engaged in their online affairs, as opposed to hovering. Oh, and encouraging them to talk to you and ask questions about what happens online without judgment or retribution.
posted by Samizdata at 2:00 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Keep the message simple, "fuzzygurl good, slenderman bad"
posted by sammyo at 5:28 AM on February 6


What ages are we talking about here?

Also, I use twitter a lot, and the signal to noise on that thread is weird. They should turn whatever they are trying to get at into a blog post and link to that. All of the interjecting comments are confusing.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:41 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I think if my young teen were involved in an online subculture with an established adult sexual component, I'd pretty much insist on 100% pre-screening and transparency of everything.
posted by yarly at 5:51 AM on February 6 [27 favorites]


I'm kinda bemused by the tone of it all:

"Hey! Just avoid x,y,z that's all pedophilic tendencies, so its best to avoid!"
"Okay Thanks!"
"Oh and a,b,c too-- that's often predatory, loads of creepers in meetups too"
"Okay, cool, good to know! Thanks!"
"And, d,e,f-- that's often thinly veiled child porn, y'know"
"Great! thanks!"
"And btw the sexual scene is often so build in-- they don't expect kids to be part of the sphere"
"Okay, didn't think of that, great! thanks!"

At what point do you just go-- "nnaaaahhhhh"
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:46 AM on February 6 [37 favorites]


Beyond just the furry fandom, when I think about how much I was able to get into as a teen a decade and a half ago, along with how algorithmically manipulative the "safe" corporate and mainstream stuff, I've got to ask, how do modern parents not run screaming in terror dragging their kids an off the grid primitivist commune in the woods?
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:26 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


At what point do you just go-- "nnaaaahhhhh"

Immediately. Do this immediately.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:31 AM on February 6 [13 favorites]


how do modern parents not run screaming in terror dragging their kids an off the grid primitivist commune in the woods?

It's a real temptation. The thing is, if a community isn't built from the ground up to be kid-friendly, it in general won't be. It's really easy to introduce non-kid-friendly content without even thinking about it because the interests of a space full of single adults are different from the interests of a space that includes parents and kids. (The example that's coming to mind is Pico-8, which introduced functionality to share games within the application without any attention given to age-appropriateness of the content; amusingly, this is how cortex accidentally taught my son that smoking seems cool and much less amusingly, this is how my son was put into the role of a cyberbully before he had any concept of what these things were irl).

In conclusion, have your kids use Scratch instead.
posted by Jpfed at 7:54 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


The thing is, if a community isn't built from the ground up to be kid-friendly, it in general won't be.
And often, even if it is, it won't be.
posted by jferg at 7:58 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Yeah my feelings are very similar to Jpfed's. Getting involved in subcultures is a big part of what being a kid is about, but if that subculture doesn't already have a strong component of large, established, kid-friendly places, it pretty much won't be. Hell, even stuff that is ostensibly just for kids has been invaded by Bad Perverts. Believe me, I put an age filter on my YouTube account, which my daughter uses, in an attempt to filter out all the gross neckbeard My Little Pony porn and violence (and even those filters aren't infallible).

So you have to deal with that case-by-case as best you can. All I know is, if my child had a keen interest in a subculture, and actual active members of that subculture were issuing me repeated warnings about pedophiles, zoophiles and creepers even in places that are supposed to be safe, yes, that would give me considerable pause.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:02 AM on February 6


how do modern parents not run screaming in terror dragging their kids an off the grid primitivist commune in the woods?

Have I told you guys about the time the kid somehow managed to download and install Discord? Still not entirely sure how that happened.
posted by Artw at 8:09 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Man, fandom does not want your kids around until they're old enough to lie about their age to infiltrate the adult world like we did at that age as part of our adolescent risk-taking.

Obviously, you need to take a lot of care with your tweens-and-younger kids' Internet access, and continue to stay involved with older kids' online engagement. But we are now seeing online a wave of older teenagers who (a) literally have no conception of how to interact with adults who aren't their caregivers, and indeed regard any such interaction as automatically suspect and (b) expect everything to be sanitized for their protection just because they've shown up. I haven't seen such an aggressive commitment to inexperience since, oh, May Welland Archer. It's quite tedious to have to deal with.
posted by praemunire at 8:13 AM on February 6 [14 favorites]


expect everything to be sanitized for their protection just because they've shown up.

I can understand this sentiment, but with MLP the reverse sorta happened: a show for little kids got invaded by a much older fandom, necessitating parents to have to jump through hoops to filter out the garbage those guys brought into a place that was originally intended for little kids.

So while I generally agree that as kids get older they're going to stray into problem areas of the internet and there's not really much we can do about it apart from educating and engaging with them, and that there's only so much anyone can expect content providers to do to maintain a firewall between teens and adults, I don't think it's very clear cut. There's an ebb and flow there. Sometimes kids walk into older fandoms, sometimes older fans barge into kid's spaces.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:32 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


Well, what is that space we're talking about, though? If we're talking about sites specifically set up to be family-friendly, that's one thing. (And I know that happens, and is a real problem; I'm not minimizing that.) But, e.g., YouTube proper (mentioned here) or Tumblr are not specifically family-friendly sites. The appeal is lost on me, but older people have just as much right to be into My Little Pony and post their fannish whatever on those sites as kids do. In that case, the onus of filtering really is on the parents, because they want something specific that is not the purpose of the site, and because YT's recommendation algorithms appear to be criminally deranged.

Basically, anywhere kids and adults interact, there's the possibility for unsavory things to happen. That's true of My Little Pony fandom or chess or Olympic gymnastics. I think it's easier to filter out grown men posting My Little Pony porn than it is to spot and avoid the predators among authorized adults in specifically kids' spaces. There is some sense that any random dude into My Little Pony porn must somehow be inherently more sexually predatory than any other random dude; I don't know that there's any evidence that that's the case beyond people's intuitive sense that nonstandard sexuality is creepy. (Now, a dude into My Little Pony porn who specifically sought out young fans to chat with, that's a different story.) I wouldn't let my eleven-year-old daughter chat with an adult man I otherwise didn't know, period. As she got older, we would have multiple conversations about predators ("the very first time Mommy got online, she was propositioned within five minutes"). But these are skills you need everywhere online.
posted by praemunire at 8:55 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine that any combination of moms, kids, furries, and twitter is going to end well. BRB, creating @MomsOfKidsWhoWantToHangOutInBars.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:53 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


The appeal is lost on me, but older people have just as much right to be into My Little Pony and post their fannish whatever on those sites as kids do. In that case, the onus of filtering really is on the parents ... Basically, anywhere kids and adults interact, there's the possibility for unsavory things to happen.

I mean, yeah. I've been online since the early 90s and have had many, many run-ins with gross fandoms. And so I approach the matter of MLP with the tools at my disposal, as I said. I'm not sending angry emails to YouTube devs or something, but I can be disappointed that yet another space for little girls has been overrun by gross older men.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:56 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


YouTube proper (mentioned here) or Tumblr are not specifically family-friendly sites.

Kids are all over YouTube and can wander from kid content to more adult content pretty easily, it's definitely territory where some help for parents and a roadmap for what is going on would be helpful. (Extra bonus - it's loaded with nazis, especially in anything to do with video games which is exactly what kids are into)

As for Tumblr, it and Deviant Art are hugely attractive to my kid, who would love to make and share art online. Obviously she's not on either of those* and a community that was like them but not so tumblr/deviant-arty has not really emerged.

* A Deviant Art account briefly existed, like Discord we ended up being killjoys and getting rid of that too.
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on February 6


But we are now seeing online a wave of older teenagers who (a) literally have no conception of how to interact with adults who aren't their caregivers, and indeed regard any such interaction as automatically suspect and (b) expect everything to be sanitized for their protection

So the other day I read a Twitter thread full of mildly outraged twentysomething year olds annoyed at teenagers saying that anybody over eighteen in fandom doesn't belong there.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:17 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


And none of them were old enough to immediately think "Carousel! Carousel! Carousel!"
posted by octobersurprise at 12:23 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


I feel like I'm the only one who saw this thread positively. Would you rather the mother who initiated the thread not try to learn anything and forbid their kid from exploring the furry fandom altogether? Isn't this a better thing?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:33 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]


TIL a new meaning for ERP, will be keeping in mind during multiple meetings during the rest of the week.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:01 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Kids are all over YouTube and can wander from kid content to more adult content pretty easily, it's definitely territory where some help for parents and a roadmap for what is going on would be helpful.

Sure; my real objection is the assumption that YouTube is a family-friendly space being overrun by people who don't belong there, or that any fandom is off limits to adults per se because the source material is aimed at children. Most of those folks are just having their fannish fun or enjoying their kink in a space in which it's allowed, where what they do doesn't inherently impinge on others, and have zero interest in talking to kids as kids. That has certainly been the case for comics fandoms, which I've dabbled in from time to time.

Whatever your kid is into online, you have to be aware of the potential risks (adjusted by age) of unsupervised adult communication. I think the thread is perhaps doomed to failure, as it's trying to map an ever-changing landscape, but I don't mean to say it's wrong to do that research.

So the other day I read a Twitter thread full of mildly outraged twentysomething year olds annoyed at teenagers saying that anybody over eighteen in fandom doesn't belong there.

A lot of those purported teenagers like to throw around the word "pedophilia" very lightly ("you're 25 and you think a 17-year-old anime character is hot???"), which, in a world where that's a very serious charge and stocked with plenty of actual predators, is really not a great thing.
posted by praemunire at 1:03 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Isn't this a better thing?

Honestly, circumstances are going to vary so much from child to child and encounter to encounter, that I think it's going to be nearly impossible to say in the abstract what's "the better thing." Frankly, I find the degree of the moms' enthusiasm on that twitter a little weird and I'm skeptical that actually becoming part of the furry subculture is necessarily the simplest or safest way to gratify a child who probably just likes cartoons and furry animals, but, again, circumstances—the age of the child, the extent and kind of involvement—will vary to a degree that probably rules out categorical prohibitions. I think my bar analogy is the best (I would say that!): there's nothing at all wrong with bars and there are even some circumstances where it's not inappropriate to take a child into a bar, but when you're seeking advice on how to make your kid's bar time an optimal experience ... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by octobersurprise at 1:51 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I didn't phrase my point well, upon reflection. Lemme try again.

There are so many instances of a parent rejecting their child's exploration of an alternative lifestyle - of any sort - out of fear and misunderstanding, often to the detriment of the child. I found this to be a refreshing change - instead of that kind of rejection, this was a parent who wanted their child to explore who they were, but still wanted to protect them. They didn't want to write the ground rules of "what you can and can't do" themselves, because they didn't know the culture enough to know the difference between "what only looks weird to me because I'm wired differently, but would actually be okay" and "what would actually legitimately be damaging for a child". So, because they didn't know the nuances, they were asking the adults in the community what the nuances would be, so they could set the proper boundaries for their child.

You know? It's the difference between "stay away from those furry people, honey, all they do is have kinky sex" and "yes, we can go to the furry convention at the stadium this weekend, but that extra VIP pass is for a 'yiff room' and that would be a bad idea, so we will only get the general ticket". (Or whatever, I made up those illustrations out of my head and they are admittedly kind of exaggerated.) I think that's the place that the person who started this thread is trying to get to, and I was pleased to see it. They didn't understand it, but they loved their child and wanted to know how to make sure their child stayed safe as they entered a world that made them happy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:09 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]


"yes, we can go to the furry convention at the stadium this weekend, but that extra VIP pass is for a 'yiff room' and that would be a bad idea, so we will only get the general ticket"

it's 2018 and this is what we say to kids who start play-pretending they're animals now
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:16 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Fake it 'til you make it.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:18 PM on February 6


it's 2018 and this is what we say to kids who start play-pretending they're animals now

....you....saw how in the very next sentence I said that that was a made-up example I made to illustrate a point, right? Okay, just checking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:29 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I participated in FurryMUCK as a high-schooler a back in the day. There were some things that happened that, in retrospect, could have gone poorly, but my general naive obliviousness kept me from seeing anything more than a fun chat room (with a scripting language!) with people pretending to be animals. I was also generally paranoid about sharing my personal information, so I guess that helped.

I had a lot of fun doing (programming/scripting) things that could have been heavily abused by a bad actor, such as creating what was essentially an item that could act as a regular user. I don't remember if I checked to see if I could spoof as an existing character, but I am afraid I could. I wonder if that's still possible . . .

Regardless, my interaction with furries were text-based only and generally positive, so I've never had the knee-jerk negative reaction a lot of people seem to have about them.
posted by that girl at 3:31 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


> I can't imagine that any combination of moms, kids, furries, and twitter is going to end well

Some mothers are furries. Some mothers are good at Twitter. Some mothers are good with their kids and also good at the Internet. Some mothers are good at kids, the Internet, and subcultures. Some mothers suck at all of the above. Mothers -- they're just like us!
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:37 PM on February 6 [8 favorites]


I'm skeptical that actually becoming part of the furry subculture is necessarily the simplest or safest way to gratify a child who probably just likes cartoons and furry animals

This is insultingly dismissive. Plenty of people who fall outside mainstream lines of acceptability — queer people, trans people, kinky people, furries, etc. — know they're queer/trans/kinky/furry from an early age. Some of us weren't able to articulate it at the time, but in retrospect know "I've always been like this, even if I didn't consciously recognize it or have words for it."

I have a hard time seeing anything bad about parents supporting their children's interests and trying to keep them safe as they begin to engage with them. I mean, I don't have kids, but isn't that what parents are supposed to do in general?

Support like this may not be as urgently life-critical as support for trans kids (some research indicates almost half of trans kids try to commit suicide, while I don't think we have figures for kids dealing with "I think I'm a furry") but it's still important that parents pay attention to what's important to their children and respect both the interests and their children.
posted by Lexica at 4:18 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


> Plenty of people who fall outside mainstream lines of acceptability — queer people, trans people, kinky people, furries, etc. — know they're queer/trans/kinky/furry from an early age.

A friend's child told her they were a furry when they were 10. The child spends a lot of time on-line and I think they know what they're talking about.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:44 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


This is insultingly dismissive.

Given that I dismissed nothing and was, in fact, quite clear that it was impossible to say that any of this was bad in the abstract, I can only conclude either that you failed to read what I wrote or that you regard anything less than a full-throated endorsement as an insult.

Anyway, I’m an old queer who’s certainly not going to go to mat over the possibility that some parents and children somewhere might want to be furries. And in fact, I’m less troubled by that possibility than by the fact that that twitter account tingles my weird-shit-o-meter. Tho it’s possible that I’ve become so cynical and out of touch that I can’t tell a grift/troll/performance from a perfectly sincere pair of moms with a furry YouTube channel.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:55 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Oh jeez, this thread.

If you go down a ways in the linked Twitter, you will find a description by one of the moms about how her child, by the age of nine or so, had independently reinvented the concept of a fursona, was heavily into crafting costume pieces for said character, and was actively looking for tutorials and friends on the internet.

This is not about kids hesitating about whether to join a subculture-- this is a subculture that, because of their interests, these kids are already in. If you look up how to make costumes to make yourself look like an animal, you will wind up in furry spaces. If you want tutorials about how to animate drawings that resemble Loony Tunes in style, you will wind up in furry spaces. If you try to look up resources about how animals are treated in the spirituality and religions of various cultures, because a particular animal resonates strongly with you, you will wind up finding a lot of appropriative, racist, pseudo-Native American/"Eastern" junk... and you will also wind up in furry spaces (which may or may not overlap with said racist junk).

All three of those searches I just mentioned are perfectly reasonable things for a kid to want to look up. None of them are sexual in nature. And, and I really can't overemphasize how much this simply is how the internet works right now, if you seek community, friendship, and guidance around those topics and many others, you will wind up in furry spaces.

Given that, of course parents should familiarize themselves with the subcultural vocabulary of furry fandom, seek out family- and kid-friendly places, and actively monitor what their children do and who they talk to online. OF COURSE THEY SHOULD. This Twitter thread is an attempt to do that, and it does seem to me to be getting the mothers useful information.

And honestly, the alternative is telling your kids that they are not allowed, for instance, to try to make friends who are also interested in the technical details of designing mascot characters for sports teams. And a whole lot of other similar subheadings. Oh yeah, that'll work. What you're going to get in that instance is kids who sneak off and become involved in the furry fandom without their parents knowing about it, and that is a recipe for trouble.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 6:33 PM on February 6 [13 favorites]


And honestly, the alternative is telling your kids that they are not allowed

Look, it's an internet subculture that's expressly sexual in large part, and also apparently populated at least in part by pedophiles. My job as a parent is in fact to tell my kid when they aren't allowed to do manifestly unsafe things like that.
posted by yarly at 6:55 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


> praemunire:
"Sure; my real objection is the assumption that YouTube is a family-friendly space being overrun by people who don't belong there, or that any fandom is off limits to adults per se because the source material is aimed at children. Most of those folks are just having their fannish fun or enjoying their kink in a space in which it's allowed, where what they do doesn't inherently impinge on others, and have zero interest in talking to kids as kids. That has certainly been the case for comics fandoms, which I've dabbled in from time to time.

Whatever your kid is into online, you have to be aware of the potential risks (adjusted by age) of unsupervised adult communication. I think the thread is perhaps doomed to failure, as it's trying to map an ever-changing landscape, but I don't mean to say it's wrong to do that research.


I dunno, I really only use YT to watch science videos, LPs, and Reddit/Craiglist mockery videos. But I do get frustrated how, with the marvelously open Internet, which can spawn ideas, inspiration, edify and amuse me, everything seems to turn to porn.

Engagement is crucial. I remember when my ex-sister-in-law, who was, I think, 12 or 13 would come over to our (the ex-wife and I's) house because we had internet and the ex-inlaws didn't. So, I set her behind an old clunker I used as a Linux-based guest box (which had almost nothing on it a nuke and pave would destroy), and we spent several hours over several sessions showing her how to use the box and how to use the Internet (some of the conceptual stuff too), along with basic netiquette, so she could use it effectively. During those hours, we spent time discussing topics like "You know how in every group there's that one creepy person? The Internet is the biggest group ever..." and "You want to know about Rotten.com? Might I ask why? There's perfectly good anatomical references over here...", and told her if she ever had the slightest question about ANYTHING online to ask, and, also, all our communications would be held in confidence between me and her.
posted by Samizdata at 7:05 PM on February 6


I have sad news about the internet... and culture.
posted by Artw at 7:09 PM on February 6


Oh, in the seven years I was married, we NEVER had a problem with her online experiences going bad, other than the usual trollish behavior.
posted by Samizdata at 7:10 PM on February 6


Honestly, I was completely charmed by the feed, how the mother was asking and how people were responding. Yes, it doesn't thread well.

Honestly, furry spaces, like the physical spaces like meetups and conventions, are probably the best place for tweens and younger to go. A parent has to attend, and the public spaces are all pretty fun and the events and their contents are clearly labeled and most cons are pretty well patrolled in all kinds of ways.

If I were the parent of a furry kid who was, say, 10-15 years old, I'd be doing a lot of meets with them and then helping them explore online things like furry comics and furry YA books (there are a TON of these) and furry music like some of the stuff I've posted about here in the past. And there's a lot of creativity in furry that isn't just porn. Drawing tutorials abound! (duh!) Costume creation can be as simple as ears or a tail or makeup... Also, puppets are starting to be seen more at furry conventions, which I just adore.

I mean, like, furry is a very wide and deep pond, and if you're going to set out sailing on it, asking the things to look out for and avoid seemed like a very wise thing for a Mom to do.
posted by hippybear at 7:23 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]




I'm not a furry and I loved this Twitter thread. I got heavily into SFF/media fandom online around age 11-13, and it would've been helpful to have parent-friendly resources that I could use to talk to my parents about fandom. I was lucky enough and paranoid enough as a kid that the fandom adults I befriended for the most part weren't predators, because I didn't tell my parents anything about my fandom activities. The sexual and violent content was so inextricable from the rest of fandom that it was impossible to not stumble over it even accidentally. So as a tween I felt that I could either be open with my parents about fandom and risk getting permabanned from talking to adults or ever reading sexually explicit material again (which I totally did deliberately at times because teenagers gonna teenage), or that I could hide absolutely everything.

It was also true as a teenager (and probably still is today) that much of the "family friendly" fandom voices I saw when younger that banned sex and violence were also openly homophobic and slut-shaming.

A subset of younger fandom populations take issue with the Archive of Our Own's widely open content policy, which allows basically any fanwork content (rape, extreme violence and kink, child sexual abuse, racism, transphobia, etc.) as long as as long as it's clearly marked. What's not immediately clear without context is that AO3 grew from a fandom background of fanworks being removed/altered or fan creators being banned by webhosts for arbitrary reasons (like requiring all same-sex romantic content to be marked "adult" no matter how tame), and at the same time there was no way to evaluate the content of a fanwork before viewing it unless the creator chose to post warnings or you got warned by whoever shared the link with you.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:45 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that AO3 fandom policy can lead to some upsetting mental images. You have to put a hazmat suit on your brain if you want to check stuff out, because writers will frequently list all the sex acts in a fic in the description, which is the first thing you see on the page when you come in.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:45 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


(Posted too soon; to continue) It makes me feel shameful and gross, as if this is really what fanfic and fandom is about - knotting and dubcon and I don’t know what all. It generally prompts me to leave the subject alone and get some air, which is probably for the best.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:49 AM on February 7


On the other hand, I very much appreciate the artists and writers that give detailed descriptions / choose not to warn on their works so you have a sense of what you're getting into. Maybe you want a nice smutty knotting story and maybe you never want to read knotting ever in your life, or maybe your furry kid wants to look at Zootopia fanart without hitting fox-eats-bunny vore, and it sucks to only know which is which by stumbling across it unexpectedly while looking through every fanwork ever.

For all their messiness, fanworks are still a damn sight better than professional media have been at providing trigger/content warnings or useful collections of specific story tropes. Pro media consumers have to rely on crowdsourced data collections like Does the Dog Die and lists from book clubs / GoodReads that share recommendations for "marriage of convenience" romances or that warn of books that get unexpectedly rapey. The disturbing/kinky/tropetastic content is already there in mainstream media; fandom just tags its stuff better.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:57 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


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