My daughter is 11 and I discovered that she had a Facebook account and a personal email account. These were two things my wife and I had told her she wasn't allowed to have. I felt she was still too young. When she was caught, she obviously offered up a bunch of lies and denials, and for this I have to ground her. My question is what happens after the grounding?

I work in IT, so I am not new to this kind of media or unaware of the dangers and issues it presents. I have full knowledge in how to lock down her devices and put content filtering in place or a whitelist of allowed services, but let's be honest, I can no more stop her than I could stop a tidal wave. I can restrict her access, lock down the computers, search her devices periodically, but there are still friends' houses and a multitude of other ways she could and will access this stuff. I would like to believe otherwise but it's just too prevalent in our society, and everyone she knows is doing the same.

I have to ask myself not what I would feel better about, but what is better for her personal development? Truth be told, the only thing I can really do is try and educate her on the dangers and allow the services. This seems to be the only real solution. Other solutions would only force her to be more secretive, and for us to be more draconian, and for what? How would that help her develop into a better person/adult?

Looking for some insight or suggestions on how to approach this issue from. How should I go about this? Again she will be grounded, harshly for lying and sneaking behind our backs, and it's not going to be enjoyable for her. However after the punishment I need a plan on what's best moving forward.

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    It's hard to tell what your question really is. I count 5 question marks in your post -- can you be more precise please? It will help make it clear what would make an answer useful to you. Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 19:34
  • I disagree, Torben . . . I see 1 question: a concerned "what do i do?" and man is it a tuffie.
    – monsto
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 7:00
  • The main question is what should I allow her access to and how can I help make her understand how to use the allowed services safely. I "answer" all my questions but I have left this one open longer than usual on purpose and so far really like some of the questions but for those that are concerned about it not being finished i plan to select an answer this week.
    – Ominus
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 13:33
  • There are far more suitable places for under-13s, Facebook is simply exciting because it's illicit. The moment you know there are rules, kids feel like breaking them. But, here is an interesting stat: Despite being avid social media users, more than 49% of kids still prefer to communicate face-to-face with their friends. blog.quib.ly/2012/11/14/the-digital-world-of-teens
    – user3439
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 14:01

12 Answers 12


First of all, Gmail will allow you to 'delegate' email to another address. my 10 yo daughter has an email address that i delegated to my main gmail address. Dropdown at my name on the screen and i can open her mailbox. I do it regularly.

Secondly, if you notified those services, they would delete or block the accounts. Not personally sure that would be my decision, but that's up to you. Personally, it would depend on how pissed off I was about the lying part.

Which is what I think you should focus on: lying and subterfuge.

My MAIN OVERARCHING concern with my kids is keeping them safe. I tell them what I tell them to keep them safe. "If you don't do what I tell you, then I can't keep you safe. If you're LYING to me, then you're purposefully putting yourself outside of the things i can do to keep you safe." These are my words, but i've never met anyone that disagrees with it.

So in that same vein, I think you should pull out some Scared Straight. Even tho you've apparently already had the big reveal, you can still do this to drive home the point that you, as the parent, occasionally know what you're talking about.

ad nauseum

Do some creative googling and you can come up with IMO too many of these sad stories. TBPH this is the thing that keeps me up at night.

Now your girl is going to tell you she's had it all under control, right? She's only talked to kids from school? yeah . . . ask her if she's ever talked to a friend of a school friend, or someone that says they met her at, say another school or at someplace outside of school... while it's likely harmless, it will absolutely put the Holy Crap question in her mind.

And that's what it's all about. Because as a parent, you've outlined rules for her to follow to prevent these things at a very low level. You probably didn't even think about specific scenarios when putting the rules in place becuase you knew the rules would take care of it.

So beyond the interaction, afterwards don't try to put the genie back in the bottle. You simply cannot delete unfettered computer access from her life, and trying to do so would only serve as a wedge. But you can certainly give her enough knowledge to 1) build her own boundaries and 2) come to you when something seems fishy. You might also lay down the law "you can keep the email, but only if i get access" . . . which, of course, is based on a certain level of trust.

These are technical solutions. Social solutions are going to require conversation and negotiation. And with an 11 yo girl, I wish you all the best.

I've denied my own need to have these conversations, so I'm quite interested to know how this turns out for you.

  • One issue with this answer is that "Online Predators" are not particularly scary if you only plan to friend people you know from school. Did your 11-year old actually respond to "Scared Straight"?
    – deworde
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 14:45
  • Taking advantage of how the child has limited technical knowledge as a result of shielding her from the internet and deliberately misleading her to think of the internet as a purely scary place populated by malicious people is overly manipulative and a breach of trust. All children deserve better than being "scared straight" with biased and misleading information.
    – bjb568
    Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 20:40
  • @bjb568 Assuming that the only points of the conversation were the negative points mentioned here is your prerogative. The reality is that 4 years ago a 10 yr old was convinced that she knew the positive points and that she had it all under control. By explaining that she's not as savvy as she thought she was, and giving examples, it brought her back to the reality that not everyone in the world is a nice guy. Today at 14 she surfs tumblr, imgur, facebook, etc with a healthy suspicion for people and interactions that come from outside people... and those interactions are rare anyway.
    – monsto
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 19:14
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    @deworde The whole point back then was to make sure that she understood the risks; that the internet, just like the real world, can be a scary place especially if you run headlong into things. It worked. She's got a small circle of friends, they post to tumblr etc, and have developed some internet friends while also being aware enough to look at the profiles of people that 'watch' her and occasionally block someone. Her 12 yo brother is learning these days that you don't have to put up with trolls. the 10yo sister is just entering the stage of this post.
    – monsto
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 19:18

I would focus on the lying and sneaking around. As you have mentioned, you feel there is no way around the use of the programs. I, personally would talk to her about Facebook and have her account frozen - the user agreement on Facebook states that users must be 13. I would proceed with talks about trust. I think I would make her re-earn the right to use all the technology as well as some other privileges. I think the most important component to focus on is the trust so she knows that it is not acceptable to sneak around - today it is email, but I am sure you don't want her sneaking out of the house a few years down the road!

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    As @Ominus said, and I agree: "... would only force her to be more secretive, and for us to be more draconian, and for what? How would that help her develop into a better person/adult?"
    – Lode
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 18:19
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    Getting her account frozen by facebook and then talking to her about trust?
    – Konerak
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 14:09
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    Facebook is a legal issue beyond the trust. The parent is responsible for the child when the child is 11. I certainly would not hide that you are having her account frozen or deleted from her and would even take the time to read the user agreement with her and make her aware of the reasons for the decision.
    – Erin
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 3:12

We set up an email account for my daughter at age 9 and a blog for her. We also invested a lot of effort educating her about anonymity and trust. Neither email nor blog use her personal name or give away any details other than the city she lives in. She actually chose to use a pseudonym. She has been taught to never post photos, never give away personal information and not to trust any emails from people she does not know. She blog simply provides reviews of the books she's read.

Keep in mind that sites like Club Penguin are (IMHO) just as risky as an email account.

I would not allow my daughter to have a facebook account since that goes totally against the idea of anonymity and encourages distributing personal information in an uncontrolled manner (including photos).

We have also set up her email account so we get a copy of whatever she receives. We have not told her about this but nor have we hidden it, the CCs appear in our normal inbox for which she has access. Every so often we will also check her internet history without her knowledge. We do not lock down any sites or filter, all we have done is set "strict" searching in google.

In short, we chose to educate our daughter about the technology, benefits and perils of the internet. On top of that, we still felt some monitoring was warranted.

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    "we will also check her internet history without her knowledge" how do you plan on handling a situation where you find something in the history you don't like? I worry that not informing them ahead of time opens you up to accusations of spying. From personal experience, as a child of parents who tended to snoop a lot, I really resented it...and ultimately only led me to being more distant and hiding my vices better. ;)
    – DA01
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 16:33
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    @DAO1 - Start a conversation broaching the subject without saying "we saw in your log..." If the subject matter was severe (abortion or STD clinics, for example) I think we would have to be up front about it. That conversation is never going to be easy. If she was looking up porn, it might be a sign that we need to have a sex ed chat so she knows not everyone is a porn star. If she is looking up "my little pony" then we'd just have to throw her out of the house.
    – dave
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 20:35
  • I +1'd you after the first paragraph (setup blog + email and taught her how to use it), but retracted the vote after the third paragraph (we spy on her personal email without her knowing it). Such a great start though...
    – Konerak
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 14:10
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    @Konerak - It would be a very trusting person who does not monitor a 9 year old after giving them unfettered access to the internet and exposure via email and a blog. Would a 9 year old understand cyber-bullying, scams, spam about "russian wives", "internet friends" trying to get personal details from them, email viruses, etc?
    – dave
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 18:57

The minimum age to use Facebook, per their terms of service, is 13:

What is the minimum age required to sign up for Facebook?

In order to be eligible to sign up for Facebook, people must be thirteen (13) years of age or older.

The minimum age to use GMail and Google Accounts, per their terms of service, is also 13 (in the USA):

Age requirements on Google Accounts

The following age requirements apply for owners of a Google Account (with the exception of accounts in Apps for Education domains):

All other countries (including the US): 13 or older

I think it's a lot easier to say "it's against the law for you to have a Facebook account" than it is to say "you can't have a Facebook account because I think you're too young". The law is on your side in this case, and I for one agree with this particular law -- 13 years is a good rule of thumb and starting age for use of social media.

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    Pre/teenagers don't always see "the law" as we do. ;)
    – DA01
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 4:05
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    better for the "law" to be the bad guy instead of the parents, though -- and if this is an option it should be used. Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 6:30
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    True, though that argument will only work until they're 13
    – DA01
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 6:34
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    I know it's been a while, but I came back to this and must say that I can't agree with this approach. It's the parent essentially hiding behind the rules and putting it off on the internet entities. IMO, your kid, your decision. No their rules don't allow it, but that just puts off the parent making a decision.
    – monsto
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 0:48
  • @monsto interesting, do you have a similar attitude toward laws about the drinking age? I agree that "follow the rules" isn't the full story, and I agree with your answer here about explaining what the risks are. But these sorts of age laws (generally) exist for a reason, to protect children. My attitude is that laws, such as legal drinking and internet use ages, should always be followed unless there is some clear and compelling and exceptional reason not to. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 0:57

Proclaimer: I have no personal experience with raising children. I just have a big interest in it, am following some guru's at this topic in the Netherlands, exchanged thoughts with a teacher, and have thought about / shaped my own thoughts.

You're making big steps in your own process here, that is great to see. On one hand you very confident in punishment and your previous statement, on the other hand you're in doubt and shaping new (quite concrete) thoughts. I think one first thing would be to know that your daughter is probably going through a similar learning process.

I think the best you can do is to see it as normal and talk about things happing. As a base, allow it: it is probably normal for her, it is the world around her. You can (and should) set some rules though. Just as in the physical world, don't just take candy from unknown people. For example: before uploading a video or photo, she should first show it to you. She will not get everything directly, and will be seduced by how Facebook et all presents things, but she will learn.

Also talk about it like you talk about other things happening in the physical world. Like, "how was it at school", also ask "how was it on the internet". If you start early with this, she will not find it strange and will likely tell openly about who said what and what she did herself.

See her as an expert in it. Whether you are in IT (me too) doesn't change this, she will be(come) a bigger expert in how things socially go around for her age in these media. What she likes and doesn't like. And how to deal with that. Practically: ask her things. What does she do? Why does she like that? How(!) does she do that? (even though you know the answer; she will present it in another way or talk about the effects and emotions). Handle these conversations with care, let her really be the expert. Listen to what she says. Reply, but don't judge. If you feel something is not good, ask her what she thinks about it, what the effects are. Or name an effect and ask what she thinks about it. Maybe the same conclusions come up as you already knew, but in this way she will shape her own opinions about it. And by talking together you will be able to co-shape and ask the right questions.

I do not believe that blocking sites and devices and locking out certain usage has a good effect. As you've already seen, her curiosity or her friends catch her and she does it anyway. In talks I had with teachers they can confirm. They don't block websites on school computers as it would happen somewhere else then. Instead they are talking about what happened, in the class.

Again: for children growing up now, Facebook is as normal as opening a door or walking on the street. They will know no better than that it is. If you treat it as something dangerous they won't understand and will not talk openly about it to you, as you're not understanding what they understand (from their point of view).


My son just turned 10. We got him an email account under the condition that we have his email address password as well. Of course, he can just delete stuff he doesn't want us to see as well, so even that is no real gated environment.

I have no answers other than, as you state, we can try blocking and grounding but none of that actually works. So I think the best bet is to try and educate. My biggest concern is Facebook and the hive-mind cliquishness of it. I'm pushing 40 and I get scared reading half the stuff on there from people I supposedly already knew. ;)


Couple of things to add:

  • As someone said, using certain services is forbidden for children under 13 years old. This can lead to sad consequences, as in this case: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/hey-google-thanks-for-making-my-daughter-cry/2011/12/12/gIQAhYx9pO_blog.html where child's mail account was deleted (and all nice memories lost), when admins found out that the kid was "too young".
  • I don't know where you live, but before reading your children's email or messages make sure it is legal. For example, here in Finland it is a crime to read your children's email without his/her permission or regular mail (with certain exceptions). Of course you can agree with your child that (s)he can set up an account in condition that you can read together all the messages.

This is difficult to decide, partly because the difference between someone who is 11 and someone who is 13 is not that great (to take it to an absurd extreme, if someone who is one week away from being 13 were caught creating a FB account, would FB close the account and tell them to wait one week?).

I think grounding her was correct - she went behind your back and gave out false information about herself. What happens afterwards is that she needs to be open and honest with you about her online activities. Explain to her that there are bad people who look for your young people to stalk (I would be hesitant using the term 'young adult', since even a 13 year old is far from being an 'adult', but your 11 year old no longer sees herself as a 'child'). Explain that you want to allow her to have some freedom to explore the outside world, but because of her young age she still needs guidance from her parents. With that in mind, try laying some ground rules for using FB:

1) Only use it when at home. This may be nigh impossible to enforce, but if she at least knows she can use FB when she gets home, at least you know when she's logging in.

2) Only allow FB access during certain hours. This might help keep some of the potential stalkers at bay, as they would not be able to chat with your daughter when everyone else is sleeping.

3) Do not accept any friend requests from anyone other than friends your daughter personally knows.

4) If a friend is planning a party or some other event, your daughter should inform you when and where the event is taking place so you can chaperone her or at least keep tabs on where she is.

5) This idea is a tricky one to get someone to agree to, but it would allow for the most clarity of what your daughter is doing - agree on a password for her account, and agree that you will periodically check her account WITHOUT MODIFYING ANYTHING. I put that last part in caps because you need to reassure your daughter that while you want to just make sure everything is kosher, you're not about to reply to any of her e-mails or friend requests. Ask her to inform you if someone starts talking about stuff like sex to her online so you can investigate further.

Remind your daughter also that there are cases of kids bullying other kids online (there was a 15 year old girl who hung herself after some bullying from kids at her school and online). If your daughter winds up getting caught in such a discussion or on the recieving end of bullying, have her talk to you, make a note of who is doing the bullying and attempt to talk to the kids parents and school teachers. It's better to be slightly paranoid and otherwise enjoy exploring this new world than to be completely trusting and be one of the few kids who tragically fall victim to other people's lures.

  • "(to take it to an absurd extreme, if someone who is one week away from being 13 were caught creating a FB account, would FB close the account and tell them to wait one week?)" Yes, actually, they would.
    – monsto
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 7:01

Keeping tabs on her whereabouts, getting her a cell phone / emergency contact in case they do find themselves in trouble, and making them feel like they can communicate with you and not have to hide anything.


While I have no answer as to what to do after the grounding for lying I'd like to toss in this idea. How is not having an email account effecting her socially. Yes, there is a big problem with Cyberbullying which would effect her socially if she had an email account, not having one also presents a social issue. If this is how her friends communicate she is being left out and will eventually be left out of the social circle because of it.

  • I agree with this and will be getting her setup with an email account after her punishment, and some education on how to use it responsibly and how to not fall for spam and the like. She's old enough for this. Not facebook though there own policy is 13 and i think there are good reasons to wait maybe even longer than that but that might not be practical.
    – Ominus
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 21:44
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    @Ominus note that the 13 year restriction on most web sites is US Law rather than any specific best practice or recommendation. It has to do with the legalities of agreeing to EULAs and the like.
    – DA01
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 22:03

One way to see her email to to setup gmail to download her email using the pop3 interface. This will capture all emails sent to her, even if she tries to delete them.

You will not see what she sends but you will see any replies back to her original email.

  • on gmail, you can 'delegate' access to the account to another gmail account. so as the parent you can log in and look without the kid knowing. Big Brother, to be sure... but it beats the alternative.
    – monsto
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 7:03

Safety first. What she is doing is as unsafe as, say, changing into her pjs at night in front of an open window with the lights on. She can attract attention from the wrong people.

What I did:

  • I run my own mail server. I set up my daughters' email addresses when I thought they were ready to have them. I had every email forwarded to my email.
  • I blocked Facebook and all social media for them until they were old enough to have an account. OpenDNS.com is great for this. Entering ninth grade is when I felt they were old enough. They had to friend me on Facebook.
  • All our computers run Linux, so when I set theirs up, I made sure their user accounts did not allow them to change system settings.

I was very open with them about what they could do, why, and what information would come to me. I quit forwarding their email pretty quickly. I really wanted to teach safety, not snoop. I've never checked their browser history. Perhaps I should have, but opendns filters out what I don't want them to see and blocks what I want blocked. Sure, they could always cheat at a friend's house, but their opportunities to do so are limited.

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