Can I stop my teen from sharing inappropriate Facebook posts?

by Guest Blogger on August 3, 2012

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston

Q:We have stopped our 17-year-old daughter from using Facebook a number of times due to angry and inappropriate postings. We put unrecognizable passwords in, but she keeps creating or restarting Facebook pages. I believe she has one now, and I can’t find it. She has probably blocked me. Is there any way of totally blocking Facebook from our home? She is unable to control her reactions and what she says. We are at a loss.

-          Facebook Frazzled in Acton, MA

A: Dear Frazzled,

Frankly, it is difficult, if not impossible, to block Facebook from her (remember, in the days of smartphones and free wifi sites, blocking from your home is not enough). However, it sounds as if keeping your daughter off of Facebook—even if you did manage it—wouldn’t solve the problem. Her angry posts probably reflect what she’s feeling in real life, and it sounds like she’s looking for an outlet for those feelings.

It is important to remember where your daughter is developmentally as a teenager. At this stage, it is normal for your daughter to be exercising her independence and expressing how she feels. Social media sites serve these developmental needs well because they can be crafted by each user. The best way to address your daughter’s postings is by opening the doors of communication and engaging her in a conversation about them.

It may be helpful to start the conversation by asking her general questions or just having her share what’s going on in her life. This will help you understand your daughter’s point of view, and may even lead you to understanding the reasons behind her angry postings. As both a parent and pediatrician, I’ve seen many kids acting out because they have been victims of others’ hurtful actions or were exposed to inappropriate talk or behavior. Finding the source of your daughter’s anger can allow you to help her deal with her emotions and experiences in a developmentally healthy way.

Once you’ve talked it through and are both in a calm state, you may also want to remind your daughter that what she puts online reflects back on her and that inappropriate or angry content may have negative and long-lasting repercussions. Suggest some alternative means of expressing herself, such as talking with her friends, keeping a private journal or blog, or confiding in another trusted adult (or even a therapist) whom she feels respects her. Be sure to let her know that you are always there as a resource and that you support her in her efforts to deal with whatever she may be going through.

For more information on internet safety, please see:

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®

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