69

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?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

So...

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".
  • 1
    Note - please keep comments to clarification of the question; feel free to discuss the question in Parenting Chat if you want to make funny jokes about it. – Joe Jun 5 '18 at 19:59
  • 6
    The question talks about the "massive loss" of contacts, writings, etc.; is there any specific reason that content can't be exported/saved/printed to PDF first? – WBT Jun 6 '18 at 16:00
  • Keeping her activities secret suggests to me you failed at building up a trustful relation to your kid. You skimming her browsing history confirms this. For an ansewr, it may be relevant to know why you started helicoptering/controlling her. Just as a sidenote, you have just three or six years left to rebuild trust, otherwise it's probably lost, with potentially severe health consequences for her. – phresnel Jun 14 '18 at 11:24

19 Answers 19

124
+100

Ok, deleting wouldn't do anything. Keeping her activities in secret, is a clear sign to me, that she thinks that you will just be unreasonably forbidding her to do anything in that direction. If you now do that, you just prove her right as well as increasing the distance between you two at least in this aspect.

Also you won't stop her from recreating accounts in other ways, redoing her mistakes again. Actually even if you somehow manage to keep her away from social media until she is legal and can do as she pleases. What will she have learned from that? If she does stupid things it isn't a solution to just delay it for a few years.

You seem to have a good idea about how to behave on the web with private data, so it would be more valuable if she could learn the basic idea from you.

At first get rid of the idea of punishing her, show her your disapproval of breaking rules and about lying, if she lied.

But also show her that you want to help her. (I know that is difficult.) Because you two need to go together through her accounts and then work through the problems. And you really need to do it together and with her approval (if possible even by her guidance).

And accept that you probably won't get into every part of her online life. If you can show her on a few platforms what the problems are, you already have the best chance to get the ideas across.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Joe Jun 7 '18 at 2:47
48

Just find a way to block the internet in the wee hours in the morning.

The taking to strangers, sharing personal info etc. is not so egregious and at 15 especially your daughter is not at risk. As long as you communicate with her consistently and let her know she is safe to tell you anything, you should be able to trust that she'll let you know if any actual issues arise. There are hundreds of thousands of teens online with worse privacy practices than your daughter. The "stalking" and "cyber-bullying" stuff is overblown by the media.

The swearing? Let it go. It's just a cultural difference. As long as she's conducting herself at home and at school appropriately, her language usage around peers is not going to be an issue, however vulgar you perceive it to be.

Sleep, however, is a big deal. For an entire year, she's shown that she's not capable of managing her own time. This is a tricky issue, imo. Even with my own step-kid, I'm hesitant to enforce too many limits. Eventually, they'll have to learn how to have sleep hygiene on their own, and I would rather that happen sometime before college. But maybe that's putting too much faith in the ability of a teen to self-regulate, anyway. I'm personally convinced sleep deprivation is 100% behind the rise in depression in adolescents. I had depression throughout my teens and into adulthood, right until the point where I realized I actually needed to sleep at night to be sane. (This is n=1 and has no actual scientific validity, I know)

My suggestion would be:

1) Let her keep the accounts. Now that you know about them, they no longer have to be secret and she can manage them during waking hours. And

2) Find some way to block the internet at night. If you have a router, this is very easy to do. A simple Google search should reveal how to modify the settings. If you have a data plan on your phones, that's a little bit more challenging. You might want to talk with your phone provider about limiting it or removing it from her phone entirely.

  • 18
    Please edit this to add reliable sources for your claims. I would particularly like to know how you come to the conclusion that 15 year olds aren't at risk. – curiousdannii Jun 7 '18 at 6:01
  • 2
    To help the statistics of the benefit of sleep to mental health, make it n=2 ;) – Hans Janssen Jun 7 '18 at 12:14
  • 23
    I would argue that a 15 year old girl is particularly at risk when sharing details of their lives with strangers on the internet – ErosRising Jun 7 '18 at 12:55
  • 1
    Preventing her from doing stupid things at night will probably straighten out a lot of this behavior. – Tyler S. Loeper Jun 7 '18 at 17:09
  • 10
    I don't agree with everything in this answer, but the advice about finding out how to make the internet stop working at night and ignoring the swearing issue are sound advice. I do think the daughter should be more secretive about the information she puts online though. – Pharap Jun 7 '18 at 19:22
38

This is a very subjective question; a lot depends on your daughter's understanding of the world and her ability to police herself. This will most likely be an unpopular answer, but I'm going to give it anyway. I'll address all your points.

First, the language. You admit you did it as a teen. The language is much fouler now, so hold her to the same standards you would have held yourself to at her age. If she's swearing like her peers, let it go after affirming that you appreciate the fact that she can control it at home and at other venues appropriately. If it's truly offensive to you, why is that? Can you share with her a logical and convincing reason for being deeply offended by language she didn't use in front of you?

It is my job as a parent to tell her off about this.

I don't know what you mean by telling her off. If you mean demeaning her, then I disagree. If you mean to counsel her, then I agree that counseling your daughter is your job.

Regarding the failure to protect her true identity, I think that you should review together the accounts where she shares too much, and explain which posts need to be deleted and why. Do it primarily as a learning opportunity, not a punitive measure, unless she knew it was wrong and against principles you discussed as a family (don't rely on the school's wisdom.)

talking to strangers: ...some contained advice about serious issues to do with growing up, from people who were adults she didn't know.

This is going to happen in real life, too, not just the internet. I mean, aren't you turning to strangers right now for advice? Yet you trust that someone may have good advice.

Instead of teaching her to not trust strangers ("stranger danger" is not a successful strategy; these people are not "strangers" to her), teach her how to evaluate things for herself. Teach her critical thinking skills. That's a gift that will serve her well in all she does. Rules usually aren't rules because someone says they are; usually they're rules because they serve to protect someone from harm and are for one's well being and success. A student shouldn't cheat in school only because there are rules against it; they should understand the broader implications of what education is, and what personal integrity is.*

Sleep is important, but you can't force someone to sleep. Establish a reasonable lights out time, and turn off the wifi at that hour.

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.

Punishment is a tricky concept, and only those who are really honest with themselves can distinguish the desire to punish from the desire for a child to learn the natural consequences of negative behavior. In all honesty, I'm not sure punishment works; if it did, more convicts would come out model citizens instead of more clever about concealing their crimes, etc. So, I wouldn't punish her.

I would, however, discuss with her (that means seeking her honest feedback and considering its validity) reasonable consequences of her poor choices (concealing computer use in the middle of the night does mean that you have lost trust in her ability to make good choices, and you will be monitoring her behavior/choices until you learn that she can be trusted again, etc.)

I can imagine how this would have felt to me at 15. It would have been a massive loss... Maybe it is not the right thing to do.

You need to know why you believe the things you do before you can have confidence in the things you do. (There's that integrity thing again.) How she feels about a natural and reasonable consequence doesn't figure into the fact that in real life, consequences occur no matter how people feel about them. Her feelings should not be a primary consideration here; her ability to learn the right lessons from them should be.

*I think that unless a person is amoral, immoral, or has a mental illness akin to sociopathy, self-esteem is related to self-respect, which is related to integrity. I'm not saying I'm great at this; I'm saying it's worth carefully examining what a life well lived means.

I have a rambunctious, fear aggressive (and 45 pounds large) puppy who doesn't get along with other dogs. As a consequence of having him and being unable to teach/train him better, I had to hire a trainer, and a behaviorist (at $220/hour!) Because I could not trust him, I had to install a fence (more than a few thousand dollars), and because he could squeeze through the metal rails (even though they are only 3.875 inches apart!), I had to add an additional barrier on the entire fence ($$$). As a consequence of his amazing abilities to escape and evade in spite of all this, I have received two citations from the police (more $$$) and incited the ill-will of neighbors whose dogs mine has harassed (no real biting has occurred yet), and I will doubtless endure more financial hardship because of the bad choices I made (for one, I should have walked away from the purchase when I met the breeder, but I let my emotions get the better of me) and my inability to foresee his future. But getting angry with him and punishing him would be pure foolishness. These are my consequences, and I am choosing to accept them. It's part and parcel of committing to getting a dog.

Its not important how crappy I feel about this, and believe me, I feel pretty crappy about it. What's important to me is that I do the right thing(s). That's where part of my feeling of self-respect comes from.

  • 7
    In addition to all the good reasons for punishment being a bad idea, statistics inflates its perceived usefullness. – hlovdal Jun 6 '18 at 9:19
  • 1
    " tell her off " means "To speak angrily to someone because they have done something wrong, as in "The teacher told me off for swearing."" – corsiKa Jun 7 '18 at 15:16
  • 3
    @corsiKa - That's your interpretation of the OP's intent. I'm addressing the OP. People use language more or less strictly by dictionary definitions. See "literally" as an example of how use changes the actual dictionary meaning. – anongoodnurse Jun 7 '18 at 15:21
  • 4
    @corsiKa - The author's intent is important here, not a dictionary definition. That's my point. Language has context. "Go to hell" doesn't mean that someone actually expects another person to have the ability to traverse spiritual realms. Your interpretation may be different from what the OP means. So might mine. So I clarified. – anongoodnurse Jun 7 '18 at 15:29
  • 4
    @corsiKa To tell someone off is to just inform them that their behaviour is unacceptable. It's often used for more severe cases, but not always. A calm but firm lecture would also qualify as someone being told off. Dictionaries sometimes miss such subtleties. – Pharap Jun 8 '18 at 2:09
21

No, deleting won't do much good. You won't have control over her for much longer. So punishing her / taking away her social accounts seems like a bad plan here.

Etaila's answer makes some good points. I'd like to expand a bit on something she hasn't touched on.

I wonder why your fifteen-year-old feels the need to secretly create these accounts and then use them in the middle of the night. This sounds like she has trouble with the idea of letting you go through them - and she can only keep you from doing that if you don't know about her having and using these accounts:

She knew we wanted to look through the records at any time

In my opinion, this is an important issue to address: Do you need to see everthing she does, at any time? At fifteen, shouldn't your daughter be given some privacy in her communication?

I realize this is very hard to allow after discovering that she's handled her internet anonymity badly and has made a virtual persona which you don't like (the bad language issue). But you could also view all this in a positive light: The worst thing you discovered is that she is using bad language. It didn't look like she was sexting, or having strange conversations with boys that sounded more like forty-year-old-men trying to meet her. And it sounds like she did take some precautions on keeping herself anonymous, even if they weren't good enough.

You might have to talk about her about the bad language and why she feels the need to use it online if she doesn't use it with her other friends (but she might - you don't know how she talks when she's not with you...).

Your issue 2 might not actually be such a big problem. Revealing her age isn't a problem at all if she's not giving out her exact birthday; in fact revealing her age is necessary if she wants to connect with other people her age. It's also hard for her not to talk about things that might lead someone to her school (school plays, courses etc) if she wants to talk about things that are important to her and not lie about them. I think that's a real problem: I've always wondered how to have meaningful conversations if you have to lie about all the things that matter to you just so predators can't find you. And talking about predators and strangers: No every stranger is dangerous. If you tell her strangers are too risky, but she's been doing it for some time already and nothing bad ever happened, you'll lose credibility.

You might be worried about her real identity because you're thinking about a predator trying to meet her in real life. Keeping her identity protected is certainly important. But this isn't enough to protect her any more; predators nowadays often aren't even interested in meeting their victims in real life; the abuse starts way before. This might involve asking intimate questions, making unwanted advances online, up to getting your daughter to provide nude pictures etc.

It seems to me that a good approach would be to discuss with her exactly how far she thinks she can go safely, and then think about the possible dangers you're worried about inside these boundaries she sets herself. You'll have to be honest there, and discuss these dangers openly with her. Then train her to recognize weird situations that make her uncomfortable, and act on these feelings (e.g. by blocking the users that trouble her or, if she gets a really bad feeling by informing you).

And then do the hardest thing and trust her. You won't be able to protect her from everything bad that could happen, and teenagers are notoriously bad ad judging risk, but if you keep them from all situations that might pose some danger, they won't learn. Keep in mind that really bad things don't happen all too often; the odds are in your favor that she'll be safe enough during the next few years.

I wish you the best of luck.

  • Kids are kids for a reason (developing brain, poor decision making, lack of experience and wisdom) and social media is a terrible way for children to be raised and learn about life. 15 is a very delicate time for a girl also, so when you rhetorically asked "At fifteen, shouldn't your daughter be given some privacy in her communication? " My answer is no, not really. – Adam Heeg Jun 5 '18 at 21:31
  • 25
    @AdamHeeg Congratulations on your rampant adultism ;) How exactly do you propose children learn that experience and wisdom? By not allowing them to make mistakes until they're of "legal age"? Children get responsible when they have something to be responsible for. The parent is there as a mentor, not a dictator. Otherwise all you get is someone who runs out of their parent's house at 18, and starts falling flat on their face over and over again - either learning fast, or (sadly) returning back to live with their parents for the rest of time :) – Luaan Jun 6 '18 at 7:11
  • 11
    @AdamHeeg: I'd agree with you if the child was 8. But I spend most of my days around 14 to 18-year-olds. They don't want to be treated like little kids, and they shouldn't be, no matter how stupid/dangerous/etc we think social media are (I tend to agree with you on this). I know from experience trusting them is hard when they disappoint you so often. But in my experience, there is no other way to lead them to living self-determined and yet responsibe lives. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Jun 6 '18 at 10:13
  • 3
    "You won't have control over her for much longer. So punishing her / taking away her social accounts seems like a bad plan here." Not to mention that, if you do go that route, it'll make her be more careful... to keep you from finding out what she does online. Source: am just past my teen years. – Sean Jun 8 '18 at 14:53
  • @AdamHeeg: So that she does not even learn what privacy is? So that she builds no trust to the parents? Of course children need privacy. The lack thereof can lead to all kinds of physical and psychological problems which may manifest even decades later. I know a handful of ppl who had no privacy as a kid - one has severe depression now as a consequence of being chronically alert (not sure if PTSD), another estranged from her mother. And would you have been my father, it would only genetically be so by now. I think it's these parents who have a problem, not the kid. – phresnel Jun 15 '18 at 7:22
17

An important point that has not gotten much attention is how significantly you have violated your daughter's privacy. 20 years ago parents did not easily have the ability to read through transcripts of a large portion of their children's social interactions, and certainly not through convenient, still-considered-socially-acceptable means. The worst readily-available offense would be reading their diary, and that's pretty widely understood to be unacceptable. New technology introduces new power dynamics and ethical issues and it's understandable that they may not be intuitive if you didn't spend your formative years online. At one point you mention privacy as something that must be earned; I know too many people who were terrorized by these attitudes, and bear trauma from that into their adulthood regardless of how good their intentions were.

It sounds like you have overestimated the risk to her. The people she's talking to are not strangers any more than any other friend is a stranger before you get to know each other. Did the advice she receive seem dangerous or ill-intentioned? If you suspect she is being groomed by a predator, that is a serious issue (and not her fault!) but otherwise, it's best to trust her judgement and be there for her if her judgement proves wrong.

I appreciate the consideration you show towards the loss that deleting her accounts would be; this is a time when people are starting to discover, experiment with, and build identities for themselves and this is a very important stage for many people. People need safe spaces with trusted people to carry out this exploration. They need the ability to hold on to artifacts from this process that prove valuable, and archive or delete the experiments that prove to not be a good fit. They need to be able to do this themselves, without intervention from people they haven't trusted to be present.

One reason people lie to their parents is because they don't feel like their boundaries would be respected if they were truthful. Given you (possibly unwittingly) invaded her personal space, it sounds like her intuition was correct. I urge you to consider that the lying is a defense mechanism and if you want it to stop, the trust issues will have to be addressed, not punished. Hopefully you can restore trust, although this will require a change in attitude towards her privacy. She needs space to explore who she is, and unless you have very strong reasons to suspect that this exploration includes significant harm to herself or others, there is no need to rip open that cocoon.

Sleep is an important issue. This is something you need to work with her on; if you don't have a strong spirit of collaboration between you two this may be difficult. One reason she may be staying up late is that she may not feel like she has time during the day to meet her social needs. Another possibility is just that she has poor time management skills and needs help getting back on track. Another possibility is that clickbait and user-hostile games are distracting her from more important online interactions, making her use of computer time less efficient. Another possibility is that she is afraid of your intrusion and finds the nighttime to be the only time she feels safe talking to friends (she's not likely to disclose this to you; if you suspect this then that's a whole other question).

It's important to be receptive and to accept that some of the answers may hurt, and that this may be due to her not-fully-developed social skills impeding her ability to respectfully communicate about legitimate issues, or it may be due to defensiveness on your own part, or (most likely since nobody's perfect) both. (it's possible to both confront her about being disrespectful while still seriously considering the issues she brings up)

She now knows that you have searched her accounts. This is almost certainly a traumatic experience and I would recommend asking follow-up questions about how to address the harm. I would recommend not further considering punishment, apologizing for the intrusion, returning the laptop, offering her privacy/security advice for her online (and offline) accounts (including turning on disk encryption and setting strong passwords as a way of demonstrating a commitment to respecting her privacy), and setting a later date to discuss sleep habits (you probably shoud have this discussion once the sting of this has died down a bit).

  • 5
    @ReadyToLearn: Read ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx, Article 16. Also un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights, article 12. Privacy IS a fundamental human right and it applies to children, too. I see that for practical reasons, parents may sometimes have to curtail it, but neither declaration mentions that parents get a special dispensation to ignore the privacy of their children. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Jun 7 '18 at 22:47
  • 3
    @Pascal I would like to amend my statement to be "Absolute privacy from parents is not a basic human right." I did say, "if the parent has a good reason for taking [their privacy] away" which I meant as applying in specific instances. From your first link I only see legal protections against privacy violation, and from your second one I only see "Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy ... . Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." A parent's loving violation of privacy is not arbitrary. – Ready To Learn Jun 7 '18 at 23:56
  • 7
    the problem is, the violation of any given right is rarely arbitrary in the eyes of the person committing the violation. I do agree that the right to privacy is not absolute, as long as you are directly responsible for your child's safety. But I think "loving" is not a sufficient bar to clear; I've heard too many stories of abuse by parents who (genuinely, i believe) were acting out of love, and this blinded to the harm they were causing. You need reasonable, predictable rules to limit your powers if you don't want your child to fear them. – this community is transphobic Jun 8 '18 at 0:37
  • 3
    @dn3s Bad parents can justify almost anything. The fact remains that despite some parents not being loving, parents are the best people to decide what a child needs and act in the child’s best interest. Our society has started granting children rights unheard of in the past, as if children have the reasoning capacity of adults, which is very foolish. This is an agenda-based phenomenon driven by political ideology and not by any sound and studied theory of human goods. Governments should be very careful to only pursue truly compelling interests in the least restrictive way possible. – Ready To Learn Jun 8 '18 at 15:49
  • 3
    I'd be curious to hear an explanation of "This is an agenda-based phenomenon driven by political ideology and not by any sound and studied theory of human goods". Those are vague political euphemisms that are meaningless without explanation, and kinda a non-sequiter as a response to me asking you to consider the power you have over your child. – this community is transphobic Jun 8 '18 at 17:47
14

I can completely understand the discomfort with what she's been doing and the desire to just shut down what's she's already done - pull the plug, wipe out the current risk, regroup, try again later.

I think you might be able to use this as an opportunity to prepare her for life on her own by transferring your wisdom and experience, however, so I suggest you first try something else (you can always delete her accounts later if you don't see good results):

Go through the accounts with her, delete the parts that leak identity, and discuss the other problems that you see.

Explain specifically how someone could follow the information to learn about her, how innocuous information might combine into a whole compromising picture, and what you think the worst that can happen with that information is, using specific examples from her accounts.

Similarly, go through the conversations and advice she's had with stangers online that bother you and explain to her which parts of them make alarm bells go off in your head, and why.

Be firm but patient and willing to field "why" questions.

This way you put the focus on the actual problems, give her actual hands on experience with critically reviewing information she puts out there in a real world context and with cautiously evaluating her interactions with adult strangers online, and teach her that when you mess up, you can constructively recover and improve the situation by carefully identifying the problematic bits and fixing those.

Helping people grow is largely about leading by example: If you delete all of her stuff, the example she might accidentally get is: "if you mess up, everything connected is ruined, throw it all out, and you have to stop and you're not allowed to try again until you're sufficiently better at it."

I see many people who don't know how to recover from bad situations or give up trying the moment they mess up because the model they internalized is dropping the effort and not retrying until they can guarantee that they'll do better.

But in the real world we can't just break off work or school project responsibilities when we mess up something about the job, we can't drop friends and loved ones if we mess up something in the interpersonal relationship.

We usually have to take stock of bad situations, identify what we did wrong, and act to fix it as best we can. Also the best and fastest way to improve is to practice with correcting guidance.

Before you know it, she'll be out in the world with an online presence that you can't delete, monitor, or limit. By the time that happens, you want her to have soaked up your experience about being cautious as much as possible, and to feel like she can work together with you on any other issues that might come up.

So show her an example of how she can recover and mitigate mistakes she makes, and how you can work with her to help apply your wisdom to her life.

  • 7
    Even better, let her talk about if she sees something that might be a problem - and only add your opinion when she misses something, along with the explanation of why it might bite her in the future. This way, you're teaching her to think about her privacy and the consequences of sharing private information, rather than just enforcing some meaningless rules. It also puts her in control at least partially - and you might find that in retrospect, she will willingly delete more than you would. The goal is to teach her responsibility, not forbid her from doing stupid things. – Luaan Jun 6 '18 at 7:16
  • 1
    Best answer, parenting is about teaching, teaching is about make other understand something as you did. So going through all the stuff she write down and ask her why this is okay why this isn't is the best way for her to understand better her responsibilities and the possible effects of her action. – user32387 Jun 8 '18 at 9:33
  • 1
    Where is there a good opportunity to teach my kids about the consequences of their actions? THIS. – Mazura Jun 8 '18 at 21:48
  • Prior to deleting those posts which contained private information, you need to document them. It's not paranoia: you read about secret data leaked through social media all the time, and this stuff the girl posted probably wasn't all too secret. You should have a record of all what she posted so that you are aware that the information is probably still out there. – can-ned_food Jun 9 '18 at 6:20
13

She did nothing wrong

She behaves exactly like a normal 15 year old behaves nowadays. This is the social norm among her peers; and you can't (and shouldn't!) do anything to change it. After all, you do want her to be well integrated in society, right? You do want her to have friends and a healthy social life right? Then you have to accept the cultural norms of this generation.

Now, you may have a point if she is doing something dangerous and out of the ordinary - like posting naked pictures (or taking hard drugs, for that matter). If she is only behaving like anyone else in her age group is behaving, then you really shouldn't do anything.

About the use of internet at 4 am - this may be a problem, depending on whether she finds it hard to pay attention in school the next day - but it's not about social media, it's about being awake at that hour. Would you feel better if she was writing in her personal diary at 4 am? If you do, it's just because of generational difference - you did it so it must be fine, but what "these kids today" are doing is bound to be evil.

As for the leaking of personal information - how do you expect her to be able to grow in that regard if she never experiences social networks in the first place?

As with a lot of things, children need to be able to make their own mistakes. Talk to her, try to guide her. But shutting her out of an essential part of modern life (like it or not) it's not going to help her in the long run .

  • 8
    Making personal, identifiable info available to strangers is not immoral, but it's extremely unwise. It would be better for her to start over with clean handles, then to have the results of her teen choices dogging her for years to come. She should not have to learn by having a stalker endanger her. – swbarnes2 Jun 5 '18 at 20:42
  • 10
    The amount of personal information given away mentioned in the question (name, age, musical performance, clues about school) is less than was routinely given away about my classmates when I was 15 in the school paper and in "Local schoolchildren do something adorable" articles in local newspapers, delivered to almost every household in town. These often mentioned the children's names, ages, pictures, full name of school, what the kids did that was notable... Yes, understanding privacy is important, but nothing in the question sounds acutely dangerous. – user56reinstatemonica8 Jun 5 '18 at 20:50
  • 8
    Essentially you're saying, because everyone else is making poor choices it is okay to make poor choices. That is wrong. Parents have a duty to protect and guide their children. Social media is not a reliable guide for our youth and restricting their access to it is GOOD. – Adam Heeg Jun 5 '18 at 21:17
  • 7
    -1. Claiming the teenager has done nothing wrong is simply preposterous. "Every teenager does this" is also trite and completely wrong-headed. – wberry Jun 5 '18 at 23:25
  • 5
    @BlackadderTheThird Because she "leaked" some personal information online? Information that are likely volunteered by the parents themselves to anyone who is nice enough to ask (like at the supermarket)? Again, I just don't see how this amounts to reprehensible behaviour. – Ant Jun 6 '18 at 7:36
13

She can leave in less than a year. You can remove her internet access for less than a year, and potentially she will be "safe" for that remainder of the year, and then what? She can't only "start again next year" with your permission and supervision, she can leave. She can throw herself into genuinely dangerous situations to help her get some independence from you. That's not what you want.

Swearing with peers is not a problem. Socialising with peers is not a problem. It being online doesn't make it a problem if it's not one offline.

Asking adults for advice when you can't go to your parents is not a problem - that she feels she can't go to you absolutely is a problem though.

Not sleeping is genuinely a problem. Forcing her into more and more secrecy isn't going to help. She's already staying up all night because of you denying her any other way to have privacy. Why would you then think that more denial of privacy is the way to go? If she can't have privacy in her own bed at 4 in the morning the only other option is to get privacy outside of the house where you can't physically stop her. You can't declare her unready for privacy. This isn't about a small child who is too young to go to the toilet alone because they'll fall in, this is about a young woman wanting to socialise with her peers and get advice from trustworthy adults (you should have been one of them!)

My parents did this to me - acted like a 15 year old girl talking to her friends on the internet is worse than her being on drugs or pregnant or whatever - and I left as soon as I could and I don't speak to them any more. It wasn't the only reason, but it was one of the reasons. Your instinct that this is not the right thing to do is dead on. If you really want to protect her, you won't force her away, you won't force her out of her bedroom and out into real danger. You never should have confronted her and I don't know how you can repair the damage you've already done, but please don't do any more. You could have just read and monitored and waited for a real problem but you destroyed her trust in you over swearing with her friends. Now she's going to hide even more from you, and you're going to be less likely to be able to help her.

  • 3
    There is a good possibility of salvation, I think - showing that you actually understand what she's going through, and how you've been pushing her away (unintentionally!). Realizing that you've made a mistake - in trying to prevent behavior you don't like, you've encouraged even more bad behavior. Talking about the privacy issues (both between her and "the internet", and between the two of you), and finding a way to resolve the problem together. In short, communicating. Not as a lord talks to his subject, but as two free people talk to each other. Building up trust again. – Luaan Jun 7 '18 at 6:34
  • Being online until 4am isn't necessarily due to lack of privacy. Sometimes it's due to temporal differences with the person they're trying to communicate with. – Pharap Jun 8 '18 at 0:20
9

I personally am not a parent, however, as the fun computer tech uncle it will most likely fall to me to both teach & protect my niece and nephew from the internet.

First things first ... its best to just accept the fact that when it comes to technology, the kid you are talking to most likely knows more than you do. By this I mean two things:

  • They most likely do know more about the device settings, child protection, ways to circumvent them, and how not to get caught ... kids tend to absorb that information like sponges
  • They most likely think they know more than you about everything (usually its best to let them believe this).

Now, in light of these two facts I have personally found that it is much easier to ask pointed questions as if I am curious about something ... and have the child explain it to me. This both puts them in the position of power because they are "teaching there dumb uncle" something that he doesn't know yet ... and it forces them to actively think about it so as to better explain it.

For example:

Uncle: Your Instagram is so cool, we should post this baby picture in it (the awkwardly embarrassing one that any teen would die before posting on there facebook page).

Nephew: Heck no, that picture is so lame

Uncle: Well why?

Nephew: Because I look like a baby!!!

Uncle: Hmf, so you don't like how you looked and acted 15 years ago? Wonder what you will think of the pictures you have posted already 15 years in the future ... because once you post it online it will never be erased

Nephew: Silly uncle, you dont know what you are talking about

Uncle: Oh yah? Back in my day there was this thing called angelfire and then someone decided that everything on the internet should be recorded on the wayback machine. Thats why I am super careful about what I put online.

Now, at the same time, this should be taken with a grain of salt ... when I grew up, my parents told me:

  • Never talk to strangers
  • Never give your phone number / address to someone online
  • Never get in a car with strangers

However couldn't imagine life with out Uber and Lyft (which I use for my daily commute). Nor could I imagine life with out being able to chat friends and co-workers (many of which I have never met in person) online.

The why in this case is hugely important. There are some places online that can be trusted with some of your information. For example, I would highly advise against posting a SSN online ... but then again I did (twice) earlier this year when I did my taxes online. Likewise I would most likely never give out my Name / Address / CC info online ... but then again Amazon, Paypal, and USAA have all 3. I would tell my Nephew its kinda like taking off your pants ... you would NEVER take off your pants in school (but you kinda have to if you need to go to the bathroom). Just be very careful about how and where you expose yourself ... otherwise it could lead to lots of trouble.

In terms of locking your kid down via the router ... it may work for a while, however, the if the kid is tech savy like most are ... they will figure out how to connect to one of your neighbors wifi, or simply use their phone for internet.

What has worked for my brother thus far is:

  • keeping all computing devices in the living room where everyone can see. If you are too ashamed to do something online in front of everyone, then maybe you shouldn't be doing it at all.
  • keeping all passwords for all accounts in lastpass ... thus nothing is secret, and if we find an account that we cant access you loose computer privileges until we can.
  • 1
    The main problem here isn't with internet safety. The main problem here is the trust issues between the parent and daughter (in both directions!) – corsiKa Jun 7 '18 at 15:25
  • 1
    @corsiKa guess that is a matter of opinion – CaffeineAddiction Jun 7 '18 at 17:49
  • "keeping all computing devices in the living room where everyone can see. If you are too ashamed to do something online in front of everyone, then maybe you shouldn't be doing it at all." Then how are they supposed to say mean things about their parents behind their parents' back? – Pharap Jun 8 '18 at 0:11
9

Issue #1 - foul language

Nobody speaks like that at home. Adults don't swear around children (but will often swear around their friends) and children don't swear around adults (but do around their friends). You can't avoid it.

This isn't an issue unless it can be publicly traced back to her. (More on this in Issue #2).

Issue #2 - failure to protect identity

This is important because information is difficult to delete. Educate her about this- once you put something on the internet, it's staying there. Is she going to regret saying something 5, 10, 15 etc years down the line?

Issue #3 - talking to strangers

That's fine. When she first started school, all her friends and teachers were strangers to her. The cashier at the shop is a stranger. The important things are to never give away contact information and to stop and/or ask for advice if it becomes uncomfortable.

Issue #4 - sleep

That's not the necessarily the fault of social media. She could easily replace it with games and still stay up until 4 AM. The solution is to confiscate electronics at a set time, e.g. 10 PM and only give them back after a set time, e.g. 7 AM.

If she replaces social media with barbie dolls and stays up playing with those until 4 AM, take them too. Sleep is important and she doesn't realise it yet.

Use this as an opportunity to show her that you won't react unreasonably, i.e. delete all accounts. I've had social media since I was 10. It's not necessarily a good thing but just forcing your views on to her is only going to make her hide things from you in the future and that's bad because then you can't educate her about said things.

This is all from the perspective of someone who's at university now.

The bottom line is that you need to make her WANT to use less foul language and to WANT to protect her identity and not because you'll punish her otherwise but because she understands why it's important. That involves having actual examples at hand, e.g. "What's going to happen if your future boss sees that? This is how easily they can find it" (and then type her name into a search engine and show her). If you can't find it so easily then perhaps it doesn't matter as much (identity wise). The same goes for swearing. Try to make her think in terms of "Alright so what kind of qualities do you want your friends to have?" and how do you attract people with these qualities to be friends with you? Is excessive cursing going to do the job?

  • 1
    "Is she going to regret saying something 5, 10, 15 etc years down the line?" I told my daughters not to post anything online they didn't want a future potential employer to read (and maybe decide not to hire them on that basis). Assume that if you're "just joking around" with friends, that potential employer won't know that at all, and will interpret your "joke" in the worst possible way. – Monty Harder Jun 11 '18 at 19:18
7

Preface: I am not a parent. I am closer to being on the kid end of this than a parent of a 15 year old. However, there are several points which have been brought up by other answers which I believe are connected and should be discussed together.

Several answers have brought up the issue of trust and privacy. Specifically, they bring up the concern that your policy of allowing yourselves unlimited access to your daughter's digital life erodes her willingness to trust you and be open about her actions online.

Someone has brought up the issue of normality; people are behaving exactly the way your daughter behaves (specifically, her having an online persona unlike her "real-life" one, and her not being very vigilant about disclosing personal information online) en masse and on average. This is, regardless of how smart it is, normal.

Third, a key element of this question is the issue of how much of a threat it is for these accounts are to your daughter, given how much information she has disclosed about herself.

I think you are at risk of accomplishing exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve if you move forward by deleting her social media accounts, and these three issues are all key.

What are your goals? I assume that you want to

  • protect your daughter from any threat that may exist
  • help her develop better habits for protecting herself online
  • and, reading between the lines a bit, feel more in the loop about your daughter's online life.

You explain well how deleting her accounts makes sense given these goals. However, I think this may backfire.

Your daughter likely sees this situation something close to this way: you set rules that made her fear if she did what she wanted to do online and told you about it, you would react badly. Now that she's caught, you're going to react exactly the way she feared, and try to curtail her access even further. She probably doesn't think your fears for her safety are justified; because almost everyone does what she does. She doesn't hear very often about bad things happening from revealing information online, and nothing bad has so far happened to her. I am not saying this is good logic, or that she is right, however, you have to understand that parenting against the current of modern trends in this way is very difficult because you probably appear to be very wrong in her eyes. By deleting her accounts, you may send the signal that she was exactly right about you, and convince her she should also ignore your other advice when she is an adult and has full control over her digital life.

So what should you do? This is where her privacy and the question of actual threat comes in.

I think that you should take the existence of these accounts as evidence that your daughter wants privacy, and is trying to obtain it in spite of your rules. I guess it comes down to opinion whether you should give her this. Personally, I think that trying to find out what level of privacy she wants is a good idea. Ask her if she wants more privacy, and try to understand by talking to her what she was trying to get out of hiding her accounts. If you can find a way to give her some level of privacy, it may dampen her need to find ways around your rules, and I think you will be in a better position to get her to listen to and follow your expectations of online safety practices. If she feels some level of agency within your system, she will have less of a reason to try to fight it.

The other question is, how to deal with the threat of her information disclosure. The answer is, the damage is pretty well done. Sites get externally archived frequently, the web is crawled by data-scraping bots, and other people may have already copied the information she disclosed. It is unlikely deleting it now will have much effect. However, to be safe, you should at least edit posts to remove personal info, change usernames from real-names, etc. Deleting them won't add much safety in many cases.

However, I think there is a larger issue here: you and your daughter have extremely different threat models when it comes to her online life, to borrow some computer-security jargon. You see individuals online bullying or tracking her as the biggest threat (from what you have said). She probably doesn't see this as a very probable threat, which is likely why she isn't taking your advice.

Have a conversation about this! Do some research; read modern resources about protecting kids digital privacy (a lot has changed about privacy in just the last five years), and go through this with her. Get both of your "threat models" on the same page-be prepared to change yours too, if you find new information.

But, I really want to stress that I think getting your daughter on board with this is more critical, as well as making her feel she has some agency in her digital life. If her relationship with you is strained, she is far less likely to involve you in what she does and says online. If you can make the topic comfortable, I think she is much more likely to reach out to you for help if something bad ever did happen to her. Having you as a resource if something goes wrong is more important than hand-checking as much of what she does online as possible.

4

I'd say delete the ones that reveal too much personal info. She needs to learn not to do that, and have as clean a slate as you can give her. Restrict her electronics at night. You can't do anything about the language...and you can't feasibly prevent her from talking to people, you are going to have to let those go.

But giving away personal info is a serious issue, and I think you can justify monitoring her for a while to see that she stays in the habit of keeping details out of her internet persona.

4

If you do delete her accounts, make sure to look up how to properly and actually delete her accounts. A lot of these websites call it 'delete' but what it actually is, is a 'make this account inactive but keep all the data'. So erase the data first, then delete the account.

Deleting these accounts is probably going to harm her more than you think because it will ostracize her in a way from her friends and peers, which will be rebound to her school life as well eventually. Thus giving her enemies at school more ammo to shoot at her with. Think carefully about this. Removing the accounts or cleaning them up and allowing her to make new ones in stead is a better road to take then totally deleting them and waiting for her to prove she can handle them. (How will she do that if she can't have then though?)

Remember that social media has a totally different value to the younger generations. I am 26 and I even feel a large gap in social media usage between me and teens. They were born into it, to them, it is a part of life. Where we used to bike to our friends or called to meet up, they have the reflex of sending a message through whatever profile they use. In a way, it is a very important cornerstone of teenagers' social life.

I'll address your points as well now.

Number 1

I think this is normal, kids will always use foul language, to feel important, grown up and cool. There are different degrees of how much people swear and how intense the swear words are. My environment swears a lot and my direct friend group can be brutal with each other, but we all know it is in jest and are okay with it. The more important thing here to do is to point out to her, and to make sure, that the language she is using is WITH her friends and not AGAINST them or others. I am much more concerned with a child calling others bad things rather than the child just using the bad word. If that makes sense.

Number 2

This one is the most important in my opinion. While I think there is no harm in linking social media accounts together, there IS harm when you are linking those together that belong to different 'personas'. What I mean with this is; I have social media accounts for my person, and I have a few for my online person. People who I play games with or that I meet online and discuss things with have no need to know everything about my life. This is a border one needs to draw themselves, but it is important she realizes the value of it.

This is very hard to explain to people that don't get it, as they don't see the use in it, and have far too much trust in the world. Tell her that the things she puts on the internet NEVER go away. Her posts may be pulled loose from her accounts, but the contents still stand on their own. She should learn the dangers and pitfalls of online accounts, not only on social media. And she should learn how things like that work.

An easy example to show her. Have her log into her computer and her phone with her google email address. Then have her google for some shopping items on her phone. Like clothes or some electronic device. Then have her go to her facebook page half an hour later and she will see adds for the things she just searched for. THis is very minor but very visible, and most people don't stand still at this. Then tell her that this is the legal, visible side of things and that behind the screen thousands of computers are working with every bit of data she puts online.

Number 3

There is no issue in getting advice online. Wether it is from other teens or adults. But it is important to teach her to take in different sources of information and then think about what those sources said herself. The internet is a big place and not everybody speaks the truth. And even when people do that, there is still different opinions and values. There is nothing wrong with listening to advice and different opinions, but it is wrong to just blindly follow it.

Don't tell her to not go to the internet for information, instead teach her to think about the information she finds critically.

Number 4

This is unacceptable. Teens need all the sleep they can get as they are growing. You need to be very stern on this. The router is a good starting point but I would have her return her devices downstairs when she has to go to sleep. Or put timer locks on the outlets in her room. I would leave her, her phone, but sleep is one of the most important things for a teenager.

I also want to add that teens go through a lot of different emotions and are always busy finding their place in the world. This can be very overwhelming sometimes. From personal experience, when I was in my puberty I got through it easier by having online friends to talk to, about the same issues, or about similar interests. This can be a good thing, but you need to approach it correct. She will have to learn herself for a large part of course, but some people are more critical in thinking then others, and if she is not, I would talk to her about that.

The most important things are that she should take EVERYTHING online with a grain of salt and fact-check it, decide on her own if a strangers advice is good or not. Also teach her to type her comments and messages online, then instead of sending it, tell her to reread it and evaluate it. A lot of people (Especially grown-ups) Don't do this and I think it is one of the biggest sources of vitriol online.

Lastly, You seem to go rather quickly over the fact you have invaded her privacy. You seem to have read all her profiles AS WELL as her messages. This is not okay. I know you want to know everything about your kid, and that you did this out of worry and care, but teens need their privacy. If they don't feel like they have it, they will find ways around you to have it. Teens are crafty devils, more so then little kids, and I think it is better to find a safe middle ground then to force her to go around your back.

In my own experience: When I was 16 most of my friends were allowed their social media accounts and none of our parents checked them. Only what they could see from their own accounts.

We had one friend though whos parents had the open door policy thing, and pulled that through to his social media accounts as well. This pushed him to the TOR network and message boards like 4chan, just so he could have his privacy, and I can assure you that is not the place you want your daughter to go to.

Let her have her privacy on facebook and twitter and wattpad. Most of these sites do extensive message checking to begin with. Anything not appropriate will be flagged and if it is intense, they will act upon it.

Messageboards on the deep web, however, will do nothing about it.

3

There are a lot of good answers already but nobody has mentioned addiction. If she has been staying up through the night on social media this is a possible sign of addiction and should be taken seriously as such.

A frank talk about what addiction is and why her behaviour is harmful to her is needed. I'm sure there are other questions/answers on here about dealing with addiction so I won't go into it in detail here, but just thought I should mention that you should consider this as nobody else seems to have.

2

Help her take responsibility for her actions. Lay out your issues together and then work with her to find solutions you both find acceptable. If you just turn off the internet, delete her accounts, or force her to revise her accounts to meet your standards then you are strongly suggesting that she can't take responsibility for her digital life, when in fact she is responsible for it. To boot, research has shown that taking teens' digital lives from them causes enormous stress, which she would blame you for while not learning to take responsibility for her actions. Instead of doing-to her, work with her. Teaching her a lesson in the long-run is more important, especially because punishments teach compliance but don't change the underlying cause of a behavior.

  • 4
    "[...] research has shown [...]" Can you please cite that research? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Jun 6 '18 at 17:50
  • @AnneDaunted To be fair, it doesn't really need to be specifically about "digital lives". It's simply an avenue of social interaction, and it's always a problem when you're forcefully excluded from social interaction (e.g. when you're the only kid in school that is forbidden from watching TV, whatever). It might get her a bit of sympathy in the short-term, but ultimately she's being excluded from her social circles. – Luaan Jun 7 '18 at 6:29
  • 1
    @Luaan - Sources make for better, more helpful answers. That's why they are valued on SE sites, and required on many. It's fair to ask for them when a broad statement is made as fact. – anongoodnurse Jun 7 '18 at 15:49
  • @anongoodnurse I understand that, and didn't dispute that. I'm just saying it doesn't need to be specifically about "digital lives". – Luaan Jun 7 '18 at 18:22
1

Not a full answer but too big for a comment

To deal with the irresponsibility around sleeping, I'd highly suggest you two read a book (together!) called "Why We Sleep" and discuss it. She is old enough to understand and begin to appreciate the science backing it up and I found it quite impactful on my own sleeping habits.

This would be taking another step towards empowering her and getting her involved in critically thinking about her choices (in this case sleep). I can tell you that at her age I would OFTEN stay awake most of the night during summer break reading books, only going to sleep as the sun started to come up. Knowing more about the effects of sleep deprivation would probably have made an impact on my choices then.

To help open up discussions around online privacy, start by reading together about doxxing and swatting. Its a thing, it happens, and in the States people (a person?) have been killed. Ironically, my online privacy is not great but PREVENTING things from linking to facebook is a start. Maybe you guys could sit down together and "dox"/"stalk" your daughter. Start from one of her "anonymous" accounts and together track down and link her other accounts together and see how close you can get to her details while pretending that you don't know her.

At the very least, it should be easy to impress upon her that you don't use the same online tag for something like a game you play with friends and a website or forum you don't want your friends to know about. That should help solve at least some of the immediate concern of her wrecking her social life. (For example, I don't use the same username to game with friends that I do when I'm asking for marital help online.)

As others have mentioned: Flat out blocking her will just drive her underground, it will not stop her. Work with her to teach her better methods and better practices. She will be an adult soon and must learn these things.

0

No, you shouldn’t delete her accounts, because deleting her accounts isn’t possible. The people who make social media sites deliberately engineer their site to be as difficult to remove yourself as possible to increase customer retention and improve their data harvesting schemes, and even if they didn’t, there’s no guarantee that someone else hasn’t archived it somewhere.

Instead show her the portions of her activities that you find problematic, and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate that anything that gets posted on the internet is on the internet forever.

0

15 is a transitional age. Your daughter oscillates between childhood and adulthood. The transition is exhilerating and frightening. It is also very fast: With 13 she was still a (child) girl; with 17 she'll be a young adult in many respects. Your mileage may vary, but I would not search a 17 year old's private communication. The thing is, she's only a year and some away from that.

During this transition she is assuming responsibility for herself, legally, socially and psychologically. Paradoxically she'll be maximally irresponsible during this period. It must be this way — living free must be learned, like everything. You cannot learn to sail while you are tethered to the dock; you cannot learn to paint when somebody leads your hand. Most beginners make mistakes; they drift, they may even capsize (and usually straighten the boat starting all over again); they make blots, they throw out first drafts.

It helps to have somebody around who can be asked for guidance. They should be competent and they must be trusted. When sailing, it gives you an advantage to have a safe place to return to.

The important thing to understand is that the transition to adulthood is a process. Your daughter may legally become adult on a certain day at midnight; but factually she's gaining more sovereignty over her life by the minute. You must accomodate that process by increasing her control and withdrawing yours, already.

Your daughter needs you right now, as an example, as the go-to person for advice and as a safe haven. Do not destroy any trust she has for you. Give her the feeling that she can come to you no matter what. That's something you could actually say. Teel her you love her. Tell her that you love seeing her grow up. Tell her she'll always be your awesome daughter and you'll always be there when she needs you. Tell her that she can come to you with anything and everything that's on her mind, no questions asked, and you'll try to work it out.1

After getting that out of the way ask her — between adults — to take better care of her sleep pattern because you see her suffer. Next time you see light at 1 a.m., knock carefully and ask her through the closed door whether it wouldn't be better to go to sleep now. She'll know it's true, and that you mean well, and she'll finish her chat with whomever and sleep a few minutes later. Or maybe she won't; you know, I stayed up the other night till dawn trying to become leaderboard leader in this stupid online game. It's my right, and it begins to be hers as well. It's not that we are perfect, is it?

Tackle the other questions in a similar manner: Between adults. Assure her that you'll listen without reproach if anything is the matter: an online contact becomes weird, a date sounds fishy, whatever. Tell her you'd love to know when she plans to see somebody she has never met before in person (but make clear it is voluntary — because, you know, it is voluntary).


1 That's a generalization of a pledge a father of a good friend of mine made to his teenage children. They lived in Texas where you always drive wherever you go, and where driving back from parties etc. was often dangerous because of strangers or alcohol involved. He said that they should not accept rides with strangers or drunk drivers; instead they could call him any time, day or night, and he would jump in the car and pick them up, from anywhere, in any condition, no questions asked. They did that more than once, in various conditions, and he always jumped in the car and never asked questions. I found that an awesome pledge to make and keep on many levels.

0

No, you should definitely not delete her accounts. I can understand that you are upset and perhaps feel that she has let you down - or maybe even "betrayed" you (?), but think about what you teach her. Our children learn not only from what you and their teacher say, but also (and more so) from what they see other people do. If you start just deleting her accounts - which she sees as important - she will feel that you are her enemy, and not without some justification, I think; because by overruling her like that, you show her enormous disrespect.

You can't live her life for her - she needs to make her mistakes and learn from them. Your role as a parent is to stand ready with the sticky plaster, when she falls and scrapes her knee, figuratively speaking. And you are allowed to give advice, but make sure that it is good, common sense advice - how to spot the dangers and avoid them, without silly over-anxiety. Yes, I know it is easier said than done, but it is not impossible.

We've all been teenagers, and that is probably why we are scared that our own teenagers will do something stupid - cos' we remember, don't we? Here is an anecdote from my youth, in the 70es: I was like all young people at the time very interested in what drugs were all about, and all the adults (and the media, etc) were near hysteria about how smoking even a single joint would lead to death from a heroin overdose or something; and we all laughed, because it was so obviously stupid, and it was also disrespectful of our intelligence, our maturity and our general ambition to make something of ourselves. So, of course we all tried things out.

But I also realise that I shouldn't go about it the same way with my own children. So I would talk to them both about what I found nice about it, as well as why I stopped using drugs: sensible things like the fact that I wanted more out of life, a job, an education etc, which were far more interesting than a brief thrill.

It is the same with anything else, be it sex or computer games: you talk about it, try to understand why it is so thrilling, what are the dangers and risks, how to handle them sensibly, how does it fit into their dreams and ambitions and so on, are they better alternatives, and how can you help them control things, if they seem to have trouble with that. I have always found that it is very important to let your child know that they are in charge - that at the end of the day they get to make the choice they think is right, and that you trust them to do so - and will respect what they have chosen. And then you get the sticky plasters ready, just in case.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.