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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Facebook, Chat, and Online Networks
Our almost-15 year old daughter has been setting up her own Facebook page without our consent and has been engaging in ''role-playing'' activities with others via Facebook's messaging feature. Some of these online messaging relationships, with both boys and girls, have involved the exchange of sexually explicit texting and, on at least one occasion that we know of, the exchange of nude photos via e-mail (not actually photos of her, but nude upper and lower torso photos that she has found on the Net). We were astonished to discover that Facebook's policies allow anyone 13 years or older to set up a Facebook account. In other words, minors can set up Facebook accounts without parental consent.
We are not sure at this point if this is even something that is legal or not under California or other state laws. But we are clear that such a policy undermines a parent's ability to raise healthy children and to protect them from potentially really negative influences. We are contemplating a class action lawsuit against Facebook around this issue and would very much like (1) to hear about other parent's experiences with Facebook and (2) to find out if there are any parents out there who are lawyers and who can help us figure out if there is a violation of law occurring here, and even if there isn't, what other steps need to be taken in order for us to take legal action, or other action, to prevent Facebook from offering minors access to Facebook without parental consent. We are sure we are not the only parents of teens in the Bay area or nationwide who are affected by the negative aspects of Facebook teen involvement. Very Concerned Parents
You can purchase parental controls like Kidswatch if you want to ban her from Facebook from your house and limit her access to other sites as well. You can make sure the computer is in a family room so you can watch her use it. But she can go to the library or a friend's house and Facebook from there. If she's got a phone, she can take photos of herself or others and send them to others via email or text without Facebook even entering into it. You aren't going to be able to police everything.
You'll do better to work on the values side of things, talking to her about the real-life consequences of certain actions, what your concerns are, etc. You might find helpful advice in the book, ''When Things Get Crazy with your Teen,'' by Bradley. You might also take the long view here--what are your goals for her as an adult? How can you help her get there? Eventually she's going to be old enough to Facebook without your permission, to send nude photos, to have sex, etc. When that time comes, you want her to be able to use good judgement, not just think, ''my parents can't say no anymore!'' So teach her good judgement.
My 14-year-old daughter has closed me out of access to her Facebook page, with the exception of her profile information. I can't see her wall, or, more important to me, the pictures she posts. The original conditions under which she got her Facebook page some years ago (yes, I know all kids are supposed to be 13 to have one and she was younger than that) was that I would be her friend and be able to see everything she posts. At this point I'm not sure I want to ''stalk'' her, as she puts it, but it seems that if she has in the back of her mind that her parent might see her page, she might self-edit a bit. I haven't confronted her on this yet, because I'm trying to figure out what I want. For example, I make every attempt to respect her privacy, but then Facebook is hardly a private arena. And, on the other hand, she's showing that she understands Facebook well enough to screen possibly inappropriate material from certain eyes (in this case her parents'.) Has anyone else had this experience? I'd be interested to know what people's rules are for teens and Facebook. When does the parental supervision fall away entirely? mom
I am trying to find out what rights I have as a parent to deactivate my 16-year-old daughter's Facebook page. She is not living at home right now, and does not have access to a computer. Her Facebook page is becoming a billboard for friends to speculate about her whereabouts and discuss her situation and I would like to take it down for the time being. According to the Facebook FAQ's anyone over the age of 13 is an authorized account holder and their parents can't interfere with their account. Ideally, of course, I would like my daughter to give me her log-in information, but if that doesn't happen, I want to know what other recourse I have. I find it incredible that parents have no rights in this matter, especially because they will probably be held accountable for any mischief their minor children can get into on Facebook. My daughter is vulnerable and at-risk and I only want to do this to protect her privacy. I don't want to go through her messages or photos, just take it all offline for a while. I couldn't find any way to contact a person at Facebook to ask about it, so I am reaching out to the BPN community. Any ideas? Frustrated cyber-mom
I found out my son has been skyping with a girl (apparently nice, smart, and sporty) who used to be in his class but moved away. Our computer is in the dining room but he is home alone sometimes and apparently got up after we were asleep once too. He recently started skype chatting with friends and he left a page open which I read. The chat was sexual, though not exclusively, and the implication is that they have video chatted...sexually too, of course I'm not sure of the details but definitely showing each other their bodies and maybe more. ACCCKKKK this is such foreign territory. If he had been making out I would talk about safe sex and birth control and feelings getting out of control but actually this ''sex'' is safe and the likelihood of them seeing each other in person is pretty slim. Still it seems so weird to me. Anyway our plan is to talk about it with him but I feel in such foreign territory. Oh wise parents out there do you have any insights? anonamom
A friend of mine's son, 20 yrs old, got caught up accidentally in an internet porn ring and was arrested last year in a federal sting operation. He's at home awaiting a felony trial.
This can be very dangerous territory and kids don't necessarily realize what they're getting involved with! anon
My 12 year old daughter has been pushing for us to let her get a Facebook account. I have stayed away from it myself as I'm worried about the time-sink factor, time I just don't have. I know before I let her do it I would join myself to get familiar with it but am just trying to do some initial research before I plunge in. What are the risks for a 12 year old girl doing Facebook. I have always felt very solid about her judgment but the ground is quickly shifting and I just don't know what she is going to get into. I would greatly appreciate any wisdom from those of you who have been there, what to be aware of, what age seems appropriate. She reports that many of her friends are on Facebook already. We finally relented to texting. (I am an older mother and am just turned off by the obsession with technology, but also realize it is her generation, technology is everywhere and will always be a big part of her life. ) Concerned mom
And she has been so far. She does not accept friend requests from strangers but only from friends of friends. Her 8th grade friends usually have accounts, and she meets their friends through them. Her parents and her stepmom have some, uh, oversight on the account because she friended us (we insisted) and identifies us as relatives on her site.
The Onion had a very snide video recently about how to use Facebook to meddle in your college age kid's life. If the kid is 12 or 13, these methods are frankly perfectly acceptable (to me at least). Anon.
Like most kids his age, my 16-year-old son has a Facebook page. When he got the page, I told him that I will spot-check it from time to time. He is socially awkward and I want to check up on him because I worry that he might get into situations that are over his head without realizing it.
In my surveillance, I have seen that he has a pattern of sending personal messages to girls . They start out with ''Hey, how are you?'' ''You're cute'' and other seemingly harmless interchanges. (I should add that these seem to be girls that he doesn't know personally, but friends of friends of friends.) However, the conversations often turn graphic with frank sex talk. The girls respond in kind. Sometimes, they exchange phone numbers and move to texting one another with more graphic sex talk. (I've also taken a look at his text history. It's pretty steamy.)
This bothers me, and part of the problem is that I don't know if it should. On the one hand, these exchanges seem to be entirely consensual. I haven't seen any evidence of stalking behavior on his part. On the other hand, it troubles me that he is relating to girls solely on a sexual level. It feels like a high school version of depersonalized internet sex.
My worst case scenario: he never learns to develop true personal connections with a real live female, and compulsively relies on internet sex for satisfaction. As a female, I worry about these girls who are making themselves vulnerable in this way, even if they seem to be willing. How should his dad and I approach this with him? At Least It's Safe Sex
Since your son doesn't know who these ''girls'' are. What you don't know is these "girls" could be women or men or law enforcement. But then again they might be who they say they are. Unfortunately your son is at an age where he doesn't know and can't tell if he is being scammed. It could also be a classmate who is setting him up for cyberbulling.
While most parents think this will not happen to their child, the facts prove otherwise. Let me share some facts with you. Law enforcement has identified groups or gangs of people who are on the Internet to become friends with minors, they are called groomers. They might work with your son for a couple of years before they make a move. Once they do their goal is to somehow profit from selling the "friendship" they have established with your child. The groomers then "sell" the info about your son to another group who might try to use your son as a "john", in the porn industry, drugs or use him in other ways. While you might not think there is much profit to be made, FBI says this it's a $4-6 billion dollar industry in the US. Drug traffickers are realizing they can make just as much money selling/trafficking info about your son as they can selling drugs. But risks are much minimal; cases are hard to prove and sentences are minimal compared to 20 years to life for a drugs conviction.
On the flip side law enforcement uses FaceBook to set up meetings with under age "girls". The "girl" turns out to be law enforcement and if you naive son bring what the girl asks (usually includes condoms) he's looking at 4 years in prison (not jail) and being labeled as a sex offender for the rest of his life. There are currently several moms' sons serving time in CA prisons for this and the DA and police are more then happy to get the conviction.
Or maybe that "girl" is really a girl and it's "harmless", and please let other parents know. It takes a community to raise our kids. Thanks -
First, public vs. private behavior. Is this all going on in the email section of facebook, which we assume is private, or is it showing up on his wall and other peoples' walls? Can anybody who googles his name read what he's written, like his teachers or the neighbors? Does he know what his privacy settings are, and how to change them? (Make sure you know this yourself before you ask!)
Second, we parents need to know about our kids' friends. Teens do friend others on facebook that they don't actually know. Hundreds of them, judging by my kids and their cousins. But still, we parents have the right and the responsibility to be aware of who our kids are friends with, and I think we can extend this to the legions of unknowns they friend on facebook. Your son knows that you have access to his facebook page and his texting, so why not ask a question like ''So, I noticed you have gotten to be pretty good friends with a girl named Nancy. Who is she? How did you meet her? Does she live nearby?'' and other typical nosy parent questions.
Third, you brought up the question about developing real world relationships with girls. I think this is a valid question, and is true for sons who are socially adept and awkward alike. Many parents raise objections to their sons' use of porn on the grounds that it objectifies women and gives boys the wrong idea about the other sex. Also, in my experience, most boys & girls in our area do not really develop relationships until after high school. But they are all thinking about it. There is a chunk of time where they are sexually curious but do not have real world opportunities. In some ways, dirty talk on facebook and via texting seems like a harmless way to fill that void. On the other hand, is it OK if it has no bounds? There has to be a line, and you could also register your opinion that over-the-top flirting does not reflect the way real relationships work. This may be a good opportunity to talk about that. another mom
Second, should he be engaging in this explicit sex talk (much less with strangers)? The answer is no; internet or texted sexual chat should be verboten. Some of the reasons are the interpersonal communication reasons you already expressed. But there are other, more practical reasons. People have no control over where communications go in these media. They can be forwarded infinitely, to the humiliation of the authors. How would he feel if his comments were broadcast around school? He should not say anything on Facebook or texting he would be embarrassed to see in the school newspaper. And steamy communications can have dire legal consequences. What if the recipient is not, as represented, a 16-year-old girl, but a 13-year-old? What if she ''sexts'' him a naked picture of herself? Suddenly he is looking at potential legal liability as a possessor of child pornography/sexual predator and lifetime sex offender registration. In short, your worst case scenario is nowhere near bad enough.
Insist that he unfriend everyone he has not personally met, and stop all the sex chat. If he wants to talk sex, he can do it with real friends, in person, which will be a natural brake on anything inappropriate. In criminal court every day
My about-to-be 12 year old (6th grader) wants to join Facebook to communicate with friends. We generally have tried to ''go slow'' with respect to computer stuff with our kids and we aren't that savvy about sites like Facebook. He says other kids at school/in his class use Facebook but I wanted to get an independent read on when other parents are letting their kids get on Facebook and whether parents of 12 year olds have had an okay or bad experience with it. I don't want to be overly restrictive but I don't want to be leading the pack either. Thanks for your advice! unsure mom
12 is a little young. My son was 13 and in 8th grade when he got his account (earlier this school year). You might want to hold out until next year, or maybe over the summer.
First, the basics: your computer should be in a public place (whether your child is on FB or not). This will allow you to monitor how much time is spent on Facebook and what he/she is doing. Also, help him/her set up the account. Make sure the settings are such that only people he/she ''friends'' can see his/her page. (Some people have their page set such that ANYONE of FB's millions of users can see their info!!) No posting of phone numbers or too much personal info, etc.
Second, get your own Facebook account and insist your child ''friend'' you. Best way to monitor what's going down. The upside of this is that I have reconnected with many relatives and old friends. i do not lurk or comment on my son's activities all too much (I want him to think I'm not looking, in fact), but i do check in from time to time to see what his friends are saying and posting. I also do not hold him responsible for what other kids post, especially if it really has nothing to do with him.
Third, realize that your child will potentially end up friending hundreds of kids, many of whom he/she is not really friends with. I am surprised at some of the kids my son talks about not liking but has on his friends list. So, it is just a cultural thing that all the kids at school friend each other.
Fourth, kids will be partying and doing stupid, dangerous, ill advised things whether Facebook ever existed or not. You need to have your finger on the pulse of your child's school community and on his/her social network regardless of his/her online activities. Facebook doesn't make kids party, but for some reason they feel the need to advertise their indiscretions. Honestly, I'm glad some of them do because it is a good jumping off point for solid, honest discussions with my son.
Lastly (I think), exercise your power as a parent. Should you allow a FB account, monitor your child's activity. If he/she breaks the rules (too much time on FB, inappropriate posts, etc.), then password protect the computer and only let him/her on when you allow it. Also, you can ''unfriend'' someone without them knowing it, so make sure your kid doesn't do that.
I have to say I am loving Facebook. My son and I have reconnected with many nieces, nephews (my sons cousins) and other relatives. It has been a lot of fun having discussions and jokes between all of us even though we are spread out around the country (and abroad, in fact). So, Facebook can be a great thing. Again, just exercise caution and shut it down if it gets out of hand. FB Mom
My 13yr old daughter and lots of her friends are on facebook. She is my 'friend' so I can see not only her profile, but any of her friend's photos that she comments on. In fact, I can see their whole album if she just comments on one photo. We've been talking about how none of it is private, even if they think only their 'friends' can see it. I am shocked at what I'm seeing on some of her friend's sites. Super provocative photos, really racy comments from boys & girls (some they barely know), photos of im's they are having and thinking are private and in the moment, etc. I think these girls would be horrified that adults see it. I think they are in real danger of ruining their reputation (at best) and much worse. I wonder if their parents are checking. What's your strategy for supporting teens as they mature, yet also helping to safeguard them as they make this passage? Do I limit my daughter's exposure to certain friends now that I see what they're up to? I'll certainly create other plans before letting her join one of the sleep overs where a lot of this happens. I don't know many of the parents since its middle school, and I wondering whether this is an issue for our school. Thanks. mom
We had a very bad period of about 2 years before she decided to go in another direction.However we ran a constant war with her. We took away access to the computer; wrote to MySpace and got them to remove her accounts and just fought it every way we could. It was a continual problem.
BTW, she went to a well-known and respected private school and I would say that there were any number of boys and girls doing the same.
I did contact parents of two boys who sent awful emails. One parent's reaction was ''my son couldn't have done this'' and the other said to please send her the emails. I sent them to both families.
I don't think you can stop them from keeping their friends, but you should notify parents if you find scary things on their kids' Facebooks/MySpaces. The best language I found was ''I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but I thought you would like to know that I saw.....on their MySpace''. You can explain that you were monitoring yours, and found theirs. They may or may not be happy about it, but they should want to know.
Good luck. Anonymous
With both FB and MS, one of the conditions of my 13-year-old using the sites was that he had to ''friend'' me. I also ''friended'' his close pals -- kids he grew up with who are practically part of our family, and who wouldn't think it was weird that I was asking to friend them. These are mostly nice kids from mostly intact, educated, middle- and upper-middle-class families, but I've been floored by what I've seen them say and do online: 7th grade girls posing in bras and bikinis offering oral sex or boasting of their sexual prowess, cyber-bullying and slander, kids posting school essays for others to copy, talking about getting high, saying they want to stab a teacher ''in the vagina,'' and on and on. Across the board, these kids don't get or don't care that most of what they're doing on these sites is not terribly private -- e.g., that anyone who's a ''friend'' (which can include hundreds of virtual strangers) or even a friend of a friend can see all of their ''wall'' posts, photos, photo comments, etc.
I've tried to talk to other parents about it, particularly ones whose kids are posting the most shocking stuff, but many are willfully ignorant about it. I hear a lot of ''I barely know how to get online, much less use FB.'' Please, for your child's sake, figure it out. Make a FB account, friend your kid, and regularly check in on what he or she is doing there. (Also make sure your teen doesn't have a ''secret'' account that they really use, while keeping their ''official'' one clean. I know several of my son's classmates do this. Look over your kid's friends' lists of FB friends to make sure your child doesn't show up there twice, with one ''nice'' account and one ''naughty.'') My own son knows I check his FB page several times a week, so he thinks twice about what he posts there.
Is this an invasion of privacy? Possibly, but I don't care. These kids need some parental oversight, especially when they're using what is essentially a public forum. Facebook Savvy Mom
I think we all need to check our kids sites and tell our husbands/partners to do the same = after all you are parenting... and isn't this parenting?
If I find anything racy my child as posted then she knows the consequences = If I find anything a friend's child has done, I am going to call that family too mention they should look at their child's site to make their own judgement.
Good luck and don't hesitate to say something if it goes against your family rules and frankly for that matter your values or morals...speak up parents...your kids will respect you for it. Parent who speaks up
My daughter recently opened an account on facebook.com. How safe is this? What's the difference between this and my space? Are weird people and sexual nut cases able to stalk young teens on this?
As you've probably guessed, I'm nervous about having her on this, expecially because her photo is on it. She of course has reassured me that it's absolutely safe and not to worry.
Any input greatly appreciated.
You set up your facebook page so that only your ''friends'' (the people you have specified) can see it. Others would be able to tell you have a facebook page from your name or email address, but the most they can do is send you a message that they want to ''friend'' you. In the last 6 months I have gotten one or two such messages from people I didn't know, which I just ignored. But I've gotten lots of friend requests from old pals from elementary school, distant relatives I lost touch with, etc. It's great!
This summer we went to a big family reunion back in Kentucky and afterwards all the cousins with facebook pages (basically everybody under 30) uploaded photos from the event to their facebook pages so everybody got to see them. It's brilliant. You can ''tag'' photos with names, so people in the photos will get a message about the photo. And you can post little comments about the photos, which the younger set do and everyone gets to read. No more emailing all the cousins a big batch of digital photos that clogs everybody's mailboxes. My older relatives who have facebook are there because they want to see the photos.
Another fun thing on facebook is becoming a ''fan'' of something. For example, you can be a fan of Peets or the Cheese Board, both of which have facebook pages. You can be a fan of Obama, or NPR, or the de Young museum, which will then send you notifications about upcoming events. There are all kinds of crazy things to do on facebook, mostly designed for the vast legions of those much younger than we are, but still, we oldies have a growing presence!
I also have a myspace page. Myspace is not as much fun as facebook and it also has more ads. When I first went on myspace I got a lot of spam, but this seems to have diminished now. However, myspace is where all the musicians have their main pages, and the place to go to legally download a song a band has made available. So this could be why people have both facebook and myspace. I recently googled an obscure band and found the only way I could get info about them was by logging in to my myspace page.
There are many other social networking sites as well, but some of them are pretty bad, so I would recommend sticking with facebook. An old (55-y-o) pal who lives in Japan friended me on one of the more obscure ones called ''hi5'' and as soon as I signed up, I started getting emails from people I didn't know. It was quite hard to delete my page from that one too, which I wanted to do immediately. Facebook is not like that -- they make it very easy to have as much privacy as you want.
So, in summary, I suggest that you go to facebook.com right now and make a page for yourself. Then, find a flattering photo of yourself to upload to your page. You can look for names and emails of people you know who you think might be on facebook, or, you can give facebook all the names in your address book and they will tell you which of your friends have facebook pages already. Don't worry - facebook will not send them mail or notify them in any way unless you click a box that says you want to do that and then confirm!
Now the question is: Does your child want to be ''friends'' with you? One of my sons was happy to be my friend, and even some of his friends did too. The young ones have hundreds of facebook friends, so apparently they are even willing to friend a friend's mom. But my other son said No. He said there needs to be a boundary between Mom and Joe. OK, I can respect that. But he did friend my husband and all of my sisters so I can keep up with him that way!
I'd be happy to answer any questions about facebook - as you can see, I am a fan! G.
My suggestion is to set up your own facebook account to get an idea about how it works - then you can advise her, and join the fun as well! You could also stipulate that she be 'friends' with you - then you can monitor what type of content she posts.
Most importantly, review the privacy settings - you control who can see your profile, photos, etc. You need to manually change these settings to allow only friends, who you have added or approved, to see your information. The only thing non-friends can see is your profile photo (and I think you can even set that to private) and whatever networks you belong to. If you're concerned, you could have her not join her school's network, or adjust the setting so that it can't be viewed.
It's really a great tool for communicating - as long as users use common sense (which we know some teenagers are lacking sometimes . . . ) The rule is that if they don't want a future employer to know something, don't post it. I have heard that these days employee background checks include digging up stuff on facebook and myspace.
I started using facebook, and was amazed by how many friends and family in my generation are on it! I've gotten in touch with old friends, and a lot of people at my company use it. It's mostly kind of silly, but the 'profile status' updates are great. You can send private messages - I've found it to be a nice alternative to email and my overcrowded inbox. There a tons of mini applications that can be fun as well.
My oldest is heading off to UCLA, and is already getting to know her future roommates through facebook (they immediately found each other - it has pretty much replaced email for friend communication - which my kids consider 'old school'!)
By the time we get the hang of this, I'm sure they'll be on to something new! facebook mom
Hello parents, I don't know how many of you are aware of the current teen ''hot'' activity that is www.myspace.com. My freshman daughter recently shared her page (wiht blog, photos, links, etc) with me, and it was cute enough, but it contained links to dozens of her friends' pages, many of which were deeply concerning. Girls whose pages included photos of them in their bras. Girls photos' with condoms in their mouths. Lots of very provocative language. Their full names and some of them even had phone numbers. They seem to have no clue (or maybe they do, and don't care) how very public these sites are. They say they want to meet ''hot boys.'' I think this is dangerous.
I am posting this here because I think all parents should be aware of this, and might want to know what their own kid is posting. You can just go to the main page (www.myspace.com) and do a ''search'' for your kid's school. Most likely you will find kids you know, and if your kid is friends with any of them, there will be a link to your kid's site.
Better to be aware, I think.
I've found that she only corresponds with people she knows, and that her friends are pretty sweet with one another, that they are mostly concerned with their friendships, annoying parents, music, day-to-day worries, changing emotions and ambitions. I've read nothing about partying, drugs, alcohol, and/or sex. (Or if they indulge in these activities, no one's bragging about it online!) One girl does have problems with grades and cutting class, and I've quietly encouraged my daughter to have her over more, do homework with her, etc.
Anyway, it was a relief to see what my girl's circle is up to, and I also think these blogs can be a very good place for kids to vent and to feel part of a community. My concern is for those who post their e-mail addresses and get into long ''conversations'' with people they don't know.
An excellent source of information and advice about this
topic and other related matters is Carolyn Jabs's
Background: she is what I and other parents have called a ''good'' kid. She gets good grades in School mostly A's and, an occasional B. Doesn't mouth off, treats people with respect and, gets ''pleasure to have in class'' on her report card. My gut tells me she's good but, has apparantly made some BAD choices.
I logged on and, searched for her on MYSPACE and, her friends. What I found I didn't like. It seems for my daughter's group there is a kind of competition amongst peers of who can be ''cool'' and have a ''cool'' myspace. I read things that were a bit disturbing to me.
Friends of hers posting about teasing boys etc. My daughters blogs were fairly benign with the standard ''I'm bored...school is boring'' but, a few posts were a bit of a diary of what she and her friends were up to...I found out in April she and some of her friends snuck out of a house they were spending the night at, they drank and 1 of the girls got drunk (and sick...) and, went skinny dipping in King Pool. Stupid, stupid, stupid!!!
She has told me she has tried weed 2 times (once on 4/20 and earlier at a friends house and, given the excuse that at BHS it seems most everybody has tried it or smokes it sometimes. I asked her about some of her 4.0 friends? And, shocked to hear that they have tried it too.
This is crazy!
Sex? Well she hasn't YET, but some of her friends have and, since am shocked that it seems that in her circle it is too commonplace. She says she isn't ready and, that she promises that she'll wait until college. But, she also promised not to lie and, tell the truth.
I was unpleasantly surprised to find out what my seemingly good kid had been up to. Needless to say, this has engendered a lot of serious discussions, with the appropriate consequences and, appropriate levels of contrition of my daughter's part.
But, it is still shocking to me...these kids have been over to my house. They are repectful and, nice and, seem like good kids, but they are making BAD and STUPID choices. I hope I caught this early enough to nip this in the bud. I will yank her out of BHS if this situation does not get remedied to my liking. What my worry is that sex and weed/drinking are acceptable in many circles at BHS and seem ''normal''.
I would encourage other parents to find out what is possibly going on with their kids by reading what they and their friends are writing in their blogs...
I'm glad I followed the suggestion of an earlier poster.
Certainly as a parent I worry and try to talk my children out of things I think will turn out badly for them, but I have tried to allow them freedom to make their own choices (though I'm glad they never had a chance to go skinny-dipping in an old quarry at night the way my friends and I did!). Your daughter sounds like a good kid who loves you very much, very normal and not engaging in any very risky behavior. I hope you are not going to put barriers between her and her friends, because in the long run I would expect this to just create barriers between you and her.
Getting education about how the teens use the Internet, so that we can talk to them intelligently about their use, is the first line of response. Two of the best sources of information include: 1) Kids and Media at the New Millennium: A Comprehensive National Analysis of Childrens Media Use (The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, California, 1999) and subsequent publications of the Kaiser Foundation, found at http://www.kff.org/entmedia/internet.cfm and; 2)Youth, Pornography and the Internet (National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2002). Two good internet sites include: 1) www.wiredsafety.org and 2) www.wiredkids.org.
I travel around California doing talks on ''Understanding the Online World: Chatting/Blogging, Gaming and Pornography'' and have been hearing the same thing for the last two years. ''Sure, my teen uses the internet, but she would never do something like give out a picture of herself showing her body.'' ''My son always plays games online, but he isn't looking at pornography. No way.'' ''She is really honest with me and even lets me see her online journal. She goes to an excellent school--I know it's a problem at other places, but not at our school.''
Inevitably, someone calls me after one of these talks and says that they were shocked to find out something...after checking the Internet Explorer history or their son or daughter's online weblog. This is an extensive topic, but I wanted to at least post a few tips:
14 and older --Involve teens in developing Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) at home; encourage self-monitoring but be willing to step in if certain conditions are met (establish these "intervention points" also with your teen --Set very clear rules for online use and clear consequences if they are broken; --Involve teens in limit-setting or use software/hardware like Eyetimer; --Promote positive use: Ask your teen for help researching topics of interest for the family (buying a new car, researching a vacation, etc.); --Talk about games, news stories, movies and television portrayals of online life; ask your teens their opinions; don't preach; --Make sure that you're helping to promote well-rounded activities that don't include internet use; teens don't actually want to be on the internet as much as they often are. They will frequently say that they feel ''trapped'' and don't know what else to do.; --If your teen is particularly interested in computers, encourage them to use computers with others, teach others computer skills (programming, web design, basic computer use), develop their mentoring skills with younger children and peers; --If you're having wars/major problems, take the internet- connected computer out of the bedroomaccess to the internet from a teen's private space encourages isolation and higher amounts of usage; better yet, don't put it there to begin with; --Remember that unless you know and have already met the person you teen is chatting with, everything about that person may be fictitious (name, age, gender, history, motives, etc.; --Exchange of photographs or moving images of a sexual nature involving minors may be considered sexual exploitation under the California Penal Code and reportable as sexual abuse. This may involve civil and criminal penalties. It is not unusual for teens to share provocative pictures or to be sexual with each other using webcams. This can be damaging or dangerous if the teen is doing this, especially with an adult stranger; --Chatting and online messaging is often used to "flame" or harass teens (and younger kids) online. Some services like AOL have "warning" systems but people simply switch screen names and keep up the taunting or harassment. Don't be afraid to ask questions about who your teen is talking to and about what. Tell them that you don't intend to pry or invade their privacy without cause but you just want them to know that if they get into trouble online, they can talk to you about it.I hope these general tips help. Starting in July, you can visit my website at www.PracticalHelpForParents.com, which will contain much more extensive information on internet use/blogging, etc.
Many thanks, Michael Y. Simon, MFT
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