Another Dad emailed me a long, complicated question about teens and Facebook and I thought it’d be good to share it here and to ask for your thoughts too, once you’ve read the situation. Here’s the scoop:
“Our 13 year-old daughter secretly created a Facebook account in January 2011. She likely had help from a friend, who we think taught her to create the account with a fake name, and to block relatives so we would not see anything. She also used her basic Kindle (the e-Ink reader) to access Facebook because she does not have a phone and often has her computer privileges pulled. That’s not where the question lies…
“She made a posting Friday that was inappropriate and seen by others, which made it to me at 1am with a phone call. I removed the offending post and she has no access anymore.
“Now for the question that my wife and I are divided on. Obviously, she has no access to any electronic devices, but the question is what to do with the account. I think that we should leave it and at some point allow her back in with restrictions and rules for use – including my having password access to it and the right to review it at any time. My reasoning is that she can create a fake account again and she is less likely to do that if she has her old account back. My wife wants to wipe the account totally. What should we do?”
An all-too-common problem that I either hear about or see evidence of with some regularity, and it’s an unpleasant facet of our modern digital life, but then again, go back fifty years and teens were exhibiting the same sort of pretend adult behaviors. The consequences just weren’t writ so large.
Still, there are a lot of things that you should be concerned with, including your daughter’s duplicitousness, her deliberately going against your wishes by having an account, her sneaky use of a different name and her lack of trustworthiness with the Kindle’s ability to access the Internet (one of my pet peeves with the Kindle, actually).
Problem is, at thirteen she’s on her way to becoming an autonomous, independent young adult and it’s clear you cannot supervise her 24×7. So my first reaction is that the loss of trust is a big, big problem and one that should be addressed.
But here’s the thing: I think as parents we spend too much time being the “benevolent” dictator and we often come up with consequences that are logical to us, but not to our kids. The result? They don’t buy into the process and learn to dismiss us as disrespectful and disconnected.
Instead, I suggest that you and your wife sit down with your daughter and have a meeting about the situation. It’s not too late. Tell her your concerns and what’s upset the two of you about what transpired and ask her to propose logical and appropriate consequences that take into account the gravity of the situation. Then give her a day to chew on it and come back with a written proposal for The Consequences.
I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what she comes up with, and in my experience, my kids typically are more Draconian in their consequences than I am, to the point where I then get to be a little bit of the good guy saying that it’s more than we need and I agree with, say, #1-4 but let’s not do #5. That creates buy-in and it’s also a great model for dealing with problems and challenges she’s going to encounter in her life too.
If her consequences are inadequate, tell her that you feel it’s insufficient given what transpired and while you think it’s a good starting point, shouldn’t it be more X, or Y or Z? At 7 or 8 it’s hard for children to think far enough into the future to understand consequences, but at 13? 15? They get it.
Then it’s not about what you or your wife think should happen, it’s about what the three of you come up with together to address the situation — and I do think it’s a serious one! — and work together into the future so that it’s not a recurring problem.
Oh, and do forgive her fascination with social media and the Internet. You’re a big Facebook fan, and we’re in a culture that’s saturated with mobile, Internet, Web, and other tech. It’s no wonder our kids are starry-eyed about it all…
Now, dear reader, what’s your proposal or reaction to this situation and my advice?