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Beline Obeid

Enforcing Facebook rules

Ask the Experts

July 07, 2011
Q. I am really frustrated. My 15-year-old daughter knows the rules regarding what she can post on Facebook. But tonight when I viewed her page, I found a picture of her in a very revealing bathing suit and several nasty remarks, including four-letter words, about her algebra teacher. When I confronted her, she said all the kids are doing it and it doesn't mean anything. How do I handle this?

A.I can remember when I was a teen, my mother tried to get me to limit the time I spent on the phone. My friends and I used to talk for literally hours about nothing. But in spite of my mother's frustration, it filled a need in me. That need was to have fellow comrades; peers that I could talk to for hours and share my problems, dreams and ideas.

Just like hanging on the telephone filled a need, Facebook is part of our children's social structure that makes them feel part of something bigger than themselves. Use of Facebook, however, comes with some dangers.

Loss of relationships, jobs, college scholarships and exposure to some unsavory characters are all well-known consequences, but that doesn't mean much to our teens. Therein lies the responsibility of parents to be aware, set the limits and follow through on the consequences. Think of it as a bullet on your parental job description: It is my job to socialize my child so he/she may be acceptable to a broader society; it is my job to keep my child safe.

As you approach your daughter about her Facebook postings, you will want to stay calm. Most children will push the limits. Next, be firm. Your daughter knew the rules and chose to break them. If you haven't already, explain posting this type of information can be harmful to her future and state the rules.

If you have already had this discussion, do not have it again. I say this because teens like to twist the information, or place the guilt on you. Engaging in conversation to change her opinion is useless. You are speaking a different language. Instead, move right to consequences. "We are deactivating your Facebook page for one week. We can try again then." Remind your daughter a Facebook page is not a right, it is a privilege. Hmmm, you might want to make sure your own Facebook page is free of unacceptable postings!

Kathy Rager is executive director of Community Assessment Referral & Education and a parent educator. She can be reached at (586) 541-0033, or krager@careofmacomb.com. CARE's website is careofmacomb.com.

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