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Daughter’s Reckless Use of Facebook

Question:

I am a single parent. My 12-year-old daughter does not have any boundaries at my ex-wife’s house. She is permitted to stay home by herself with no one checking on her. Additionally, she is home alone in the evenings when I pick her up since her mom doesn’t come home.

Because there is little accountability at her mother’s house, she likes to challenge my rules and boundaries. This is especially true when it comes to the use of technology and social media sites like Facebook.

My fiancé and I have observed very reckless behavior when it comes to my daughter’s Facebook usage when she is not under our care. I approached my ex-wife with my concerns and asked if we could establish consistency between our two homes in how we handle technology use. My ex-wife responded that she is too busy to follow her on Facebook, but that she would talk to our daughter. She then proceeded to shame me for dragging our daughter into the middle of it.

What can my fiancé and I do? We will be raising five children together, and we want to do everything to provide a safe and healthy environment for them. We want them to be successful in life, and we are aware that it will take strength of character to swim against the current of my ex-wife’s household.
 

Answer:

Having a child who is parented with two completely different sets of expectations is difficult for the parents and child alike. The only thing you can do is make your expectations very clear, and back them up with many good “kid” reasons. These are reasons that show your daughter the benefits of doing things according to your expectations. She has to be able to relate to these reasons and see how they fit into her world.

Along with expectations, establish consequences that are consistently used when she does not meet your expectations. These are privileges like cell phone use, going out with friends and watching TV. If she does not meet your expectations, consistently assign negative consequences, such as the loss of a privilege or an added chore.

This type of structure teaches young people responsibility and good decision- making skills. Pre-teaching will also help ensure your daughter’s success. Use her reckless Facebook use as an example. Before she goes to her mother’s, talk to her about her recent Facebook activity that you deem is reckless and how it could be dangerous or have damaging results for her. See if she can think of what possible negative things could result from her Facebook activity. Then talk to her about more appropriate postings that would not put her at risk or give others a negative impression of her.

Let her know that you will be doing whatever is necessary to ensure she is staying safe online. Continual monitoring of electronic communication, including her cell phone, e-mail and Facebook will take place. There are very strict laws in some states about “sexting,” as well as large costs for being involved in that activity. Assure her that she should report it to you if and when she receives anything that could be considered sexual in content. 

Talk to her about the responsibility that accompanies electronic communication. If a good level of responsibility is not demonstrated, that privilege can be lost, whether the behavior occurs while she is with you in your home or elsewhere. Location has nothing to do with whether she makes good decisions or not. 

This approach, if used calmly and consistently at a neutral time, will have great benefits for your children and you and your fiancé.
 

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