My 15 year old daughter has created accounts with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and Wattpad, all without my knowledge, six months ago or more. After discovering her using a laptop in bed at 4am, and probing into the browser history, I found the following worrying issues (below) out last week. I am currently thinking that it is appropriate to delete the accounts, and that is my question to this community - is it the right action?
Foul Language: The comments/posts in all those social media accounts included strong profanity that disgusts me; she does not talk like that at home. It is way harsher than necessary. I appreciate we all swore as teens, to our friends, and kept a clean mouth at home, but this is too much. It is my job as a parent to tell her off about this.
Failure to Protect Identity: My daughter has used her real name in one account, a nickname in another, and revealed her age in some places. In her profile she links each account to her Facebook and/or Twitter account, so anyone can hop from one to the other and make the connection between these disparate bits of info. When talking about her school in comments, she doesn't give the name, but gives away far too much other information (school religion, current musical performance, name of courses she takes). She has failed to take the standard precautions that I know the school have warned her about. Already, one group of her 'real life' friends have discovered something she was trying to keep very secret, because of this online carelessness.
Talking to Strangers: These accounts have 'followers' or 'friends' who she does not know in real life. Most of the interactions were inane (I've now been through all the inboxes) but some contained advice about serious issues to do with growing up, from people who were adults she didnt know.
Sleep: She has been using these accounts between 1am and 6am when she is supposed to be asleep. No wonder she struggles to get out of bed, and struggles to concentrate at school. This has been going on for several months if not a year.
We warned her about most of this when first given a phone and a laptop. She knew we wanted to look through the records at any time (but we never felt the need, until this 4am revelation). The school teaches kids how to avoid cyber-stalking etc. She has not acted responsibly at all.
I've explained some of this already (calmly) but there is more to go, and I need to decide on a suitable punishment, so she learns from this. A stern talk cannot be followed by handing the laptop straight back to her. I've already confiscated it until further notice.
I think that these accounts should be deleted. Not to meanly "teach her a lesson", but because their content endangers her, or creates a large risk. She could start again next year - when we think she has matured - and build a more cautious online presence, keeping some bits anonymous if desired, doing it all safely.
However, I can imagine how this would have felt to me at 15. It would have been a massive loss: people I'd struggle to locate again, words I'd written which I thought were clever or profound, links to thinks I'd want to keep. Maybe it is not the right thing to do.
EDITS TO ANSWER POINTS RAISED:
- I did not talk to her about permission to create accounts, but I did talk about safety online and social media pitfalls.
- Keeping her activities in secret (to me) suggests she knew we would not approve.
- Yes, she can create a new account... but by then I will have hammered home the right way to do it. (Which she may ignore!)
- Yes, she lied. This is a biggie.
- I have now set the router to disallow internet access when people should be sleeping.
- Does she need more privacy? She has proved she wasn't ready for it.
- I am not merely worried about online predators. It is far more likely she will blow all her secrets to school enemies, and be miserable. I doubt she can see far enough ahead to think about potential employers looking at her nonsense.
- She just didn't THINK enough. And whilst all teens do that (and the neuroscience backs it up) it still isn't acceptable for parents to say "never mind darling, you havent developed your frontal cortex properly yet".