What’s Appropriate for Teens on Facebook

Here’s a modern parenting issue I’d like to put out there for discussion.  My close friend is arguing with her daughter, Katie (not her real name) who is 15 years old, and a tall, thin, blond beauty.  She’s smart and sweet but still rather socially innocent.  She spends her weekend nights with a few girlfriends watching movies and socializing online, not going out to parties or group dates.

Recently Katie was goofing around with a girlfriend who took a series of very sexy photos of her in a bikini.  Now Katie has posted those pictures and used one as her Facebook profile. In one shot, she’s leaning up against a fence with her head tilted back smiling demurely at the camera while her long blond hair cascades down her back.

I can’t show you the photo because her mother is horrified.

Mother and daughter are close and share a lot but in this case, mom thinks the photo is inappropriate and advertising something Katie can’t deliver. She also believes that Katie is too immature to understand the power of that photo on the internet.

Katie thinks mom is being prudish and is enjoying all the attention the photo is attracting.  One of her arguments in favor of keeping the photo up was pointing out how many “Likes” she had on Facebook now.

Well duh!

What kid wouldn’t like that picture?! Girls say, “Good for you!” and boys say, “Bring it on!“ The only people who hate it are adults who have concern for her welfare.

My friend feels like she’s starring in her own After School Special.  Shockingly, Katie’s dad is ok with the photo because he believes the positive attention is building her self-esteem and worried if they demand she remove it, Katie will block her parents on all social media and they won’t be able to monitor her online activity.  Even if they punish her, kids will find a way.

It’s a good thing Wilson doesn’t have girls because he took one look at that photo and went ballistic. There’s no way any daughter of his would ever post that kind of photo online. Of course he doesn’t have a daughter, or know the first thing about the complexities of their fragile teenaged egos.  He is not familiar with heaving sobs into pillows at night or notebooks filled with hearts and boys’ names.

One mother recommended my friend show Katie the movie “Trust,” about a girl who is stalked by an online predator to educate her about the dangers of creating an online profile.  But I’d actually be more worried about the boys in her school than outside creeps.  What message is she sending with the photo?  What situations could it get her into for which she is not prepared? Or is this oversharing and exposure all part of the modern high school experience?

Please weigh in on the issue. Maybe some of you think this kind of photo is fine. Of course my friend could order Katie take down the photos, threaten punishment, lecture her. But she’s looking for a way to get Katie to want to take it down on her own, because she understands why it’s a bad idea and has the information to make better decisions in the future.  Any advice to get to that outcome is welcome!

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