Daughter set up Facebook when forbidden. Now what?
April 27, 2010 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Tween daughter on facebook behind my back.. Want to educate and discuss without freaking out. Help!

Posted anonymously as I am a single parent and don't want my ex to use this against me in any way.

I have done my best to educate my children to online dangers - not only predators, but on chain emails, keyloggers, the dangers of sharing passwords with friends, viruses, etc. We have a family rule of not using facebook for a few reasons including that facebook put's too much of their personal information out there, even with permissions/etc. set, and that people may use this information in the future.

I will eventually let my children use facebook, but when they're 14/15, not 11 or 12.

I have recently discovered from the mother of one of my daughters friends, that while at a sleepover at her house, my daughter and her friends created a facebook account for her and is actively using it. The mother has told me that my daughter will "come out" to me about breaking the rules tonight.

So, my question is, I understand that by simply overreacting and freaking out about this, that I will a) drive this behavior, b) teach her to hide things better, c) teach her she can't come to me. But at the same time, I am not willing to budge, and think she should wait two more years before starting to use this site.

My question is, how should I approach this? What are things I should say, but also what are things I should avoid?

I think I am looking at points for consideration rather than a script or plan.

Any suggestions?

For the record, I do not have my own facebook account. I have provided my children with mobileme emails for their computers, and have basic content filtering running on their laptops using Bluecoat's free product.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (65 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
do you have a throwaway email address for contact re this post?
posted by lakersfan1222 at 12:05 PM on April 27, 2010

I would focus on the dishonesty and her choosing to do something you've expressly forbidden, rather than on facebook or internet privacy.
posted by headnsouth at 12:09 PM on April 27, 2010 [14 favorites]

Ask her what she gets out of it and try to find a way that she can still get the benefits without exposing herself to what bothers you.


1. What does she want? To be able to talk to friends, to have pictures, to have it because other kids have it, to have independent socializing time, to peek at cute boys?

2. What do you want? For her to be safe? For her not to make a mistake that will haunt her? Not to put pictures or identifying information?

Then try to figure out if there's a way you can both be comfortable. Supervision, perhaps, you could have the password so she has to come to you to use it. Or maybe she can't have one, but you'll let her have a flickr account to upload pictures. Try to find something that will make both of you happy.

If that doesn't work, put your foot down of course, but it'll be easier to enforce something that has both of you getting what you want.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:11 PM on April 27, 2010 [14 favorites]

Why don't you report her profile to facebook without telling her? Create an account for yourself and report her as being underaged.
posted by anniecat at 12:12 PM on April 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

My daughter did social networking (Geopets) at 11 and 12. She was subject to some bullying (which was bad enough), but nothing beyond that.

I think that she will find a way to Facebook regardless of whether it is OK with you or not, and that you need to instill some common sense into her about behaviors which are OK and behaviors which are not OK/dangerous. Facebook has a page on this.

Better to be an ally than an enemy in this. Unless you keep her offline completely, I think you are ahead in helping her to be safe, rather than to tell her not to do it and assume she's complying.

Strictly my $0.02
posted by Danf at 12:13 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am not willing to budge

Pick your battles. If all of her friends are using Facebook to socialize, then you're forcing her to be outside her peer group. That tends not to go over well.

Might be a good time to sit down with her, teach her about Facebook, let her now that you reserve the right to monitor the account, as you're the parent, you're disappointed that she disobeyed you and maybe grounded for a weekend, but otherwise let it go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:14 PM on April 27, 2010 [32 favorites]

Well, Facebook usage is pretty inevitable, so you might as well let your daughter use it. In the short term, banning Facebook will be pretty effective, because she will only be able to login when at a friend's house. However, this approach will do nothing to build trust with your daughter, so by caving in you'll be in a position to win the war (which is keeping her safe).

Start by saying you made a mistake, and that it was unfair to limit her from using Facebook. Say you're unhappy that she went behind your back, but you can see why she did it, and that's she just a kid.

Then explain that you will never treat her as adult if she continues to lie to you - only children avoid discussing problems and creating solutions.

Next, set the ground rules for Facebook usage. Create a numbered list (lists of more than 5 are not effective, so keep it short) and print it out.

Go over this list of rules with your daughter, and ask for her input. The ground rules could be like this:

1. Mom gets a copy of daughter's password and other login credentials
- Set a time limit (for, say, 12 months, or until the daughter is old enough to be safe)

2. Mom gets full friend permissions and can see all activity
- Mom promises not to interact with private conversations

3. No posting any personal info, including address, phone number, birthday, address (and consider creating a FB account with just your daughter's first name and an initial for a last name)

4. No posting of naked photos or any other weird stuff
(explain why this is bad)

5. No chatting with strangers
(explain why this is bad)

You'll then have to figure out together the consequences for breaking the rules.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:16 PM on April 27, 2010 [52 favorites]

She actually had to lie to Facebook to make the account if she's not 13 yet.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:20 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Can you use it as a teaching exercise? List your concerns with Facebook and then tell her if she can find away to work around those concerns then she can use it? (You don’t specify your concerns, this of course will not work if you are afraid of Facebook selling the data that they harvest and keep in perpetuity.) So force her to research privacy settings and to understand how to create friend lists that limit profile access to only trusted people yadda, yadda, yadda. Get her to research at least 5 articles on Facebook and privacy.
posted by edbles at 12:21 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Umm.. What's the problem with her using Facebook? If you're concerned, monitor what she posts and who contacts her and if there's a problem, then terminate the account.

I would pick my battles. This seems minor. She's going to do lots of things before she's an adult without your permission. I've always noticed that the kids with the strictest parents were the ones who got into the most trouble. I would let this one slide. She's not harming herself. Being ultra strict with this type of thing will just make her hide her behavior even more. After all, she could set up a profile that's completely hidden and can only be seen by her friends. Then, you wouldn't know what's on her account and what's she posting.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:22 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

One thing that I think should be made clear is that on facebook you're only contactable by people who you've added as friends. You can adjust the privacy settings so no one can see you unless they are a friend, and educate her on only adding friends she knows. Facebook is far more "stranger safe" than myspace, for example.

Facebook is becoming a replacement for e-mail and IM in many circles, and it sounds like you don't ban those far more accessible technologies.

That being said, you're a parent and you need to do what you feel is best for your child. The issue here seems to not be using facebook, but the lack of trust. Address that first, and once she rebuilds it you can revisit the account creation, together, and go over the rules and advice many have detailed above.
posted by CharlesV42 at 12:23 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Personally, if indeed your daughter does come to you to 'fess up, I would not harangue her overmuch about the honesty angle. It seems to me that a confession is an implicit recognition of the importance of honesty, and a sign that message is coming through loud and clear. I don't know anyone who likes being read a lecture about the importance of always doing something they've just done. Sounds to me like she was peer pressured at the sleepover, but knew better, and is coming to you for help.

Frankly, I like internet fraud detective squad, station number 9's approach. I think you have to recognize that your child is of an age where parent guidance has less and less importance and peer norms are more and more persuasive. I would be wary of rewarding her for the bad behavior (opening the account), but at the same time please do respond positively to the good behavior ('fessing up). I would suggest that you enforce password sharing on the account, a sort of Facebook grounding, for a given period of time.

Thereafter, you might open your own account and require that she 'friend' you at all times. That way, you can monitor what kinds of public information sharing and interactions are taking place. Please know that Facebook gives an option where you can view your profile as a friend would see it, or as the public would see it. This will help you, and your daughter, to gain awareness of who can see what. Remind her that she wouldn't post her diary, or secrets with her friends, for all the world do see. Without babysitting her and sitting on top of her profile constantly, check in on a regular basis. See who her friends are, what they're saying, etc.

I personally think it's more important to teach her appropriate and safe social networking in a graduated way at 11, while she'll still listen to you. At 15, you'll have so much less control that you'll look back to the glory days of 11. You want your 15 year old to already know how to protect herself, to have learned under your guidance, not to be figuring it out as she goes.
posted by bunnycup at 12:23 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've always noticed that the kids with the strictest parents were the ones who got into the most trouble.

Quoted for truth with a caveat: those kids I knew with the strictest parents were either the ones who got in the most trouble like parakeetdog says OR the ones who got away with the craziest, worst, most unbelievable stuff ever because they had learned to be sneaky and to hide things.
posted by ejazen at 12:28 PM on April 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

There's really no way you're not going to cause her to go underground if you're not willing to budge. The world is different online. Yes, it can be scary, but it can also be very rewarding. I can't imagine how I'd feel at 11 if all my friends had profiles and I didn't.

So, be willing to give in a little. Tell her that you understand that a lot of her friends are online, but you're just out to protect her and then come up with a plan of attack for keeping her safe.

I mean, it's like taking her to the city. You wouldn't want her going by herself, but there's far too much there to avoid taking her yourself.

Take off the bike lock and put on the training wheels.
posted by inturnaround at 12:33 PM on April 27, 2010

"Better to let your child rebel with the little things like clothes and music and haircuts; So they don't wind up running away--and pregnant."

Applemeat's mom, 1981
posted by applemeat at 12:34 PM on April 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

As to this:

I understand that by simply overreacting and freaking out about this, that I will a) drive this behavior, b) teach her to hide things better, c) teach her she can't come to me. But at the same time, I am not willing to budge, and think she should wait two more years before starting to use this site.

So, I grew up with really, really strict parents, with a peer group whose parents were permissive about some things (mostly social things) and strict about other things (grades). I generally preferred not to have trouble with my parents, and extremely harsh consequences came down on me if there was trouble. So I tended to hew to things that were reasonable.

The problems would come when my parents pushed things way beyond what was reasonable, put me far out of line with my peer group, and did things that ruined things that were really important to me.

When they pushed it that far. that's when everything broke loose. To my mind, the consequences of continuing to go along with what they said outweighed the consequences if I didn't. And when they broke loose, they *REALLY* broke loose. They would not have broken nearly as loose if my parents had been more reasonable and not refused to budge as much.

So ... it seems to me that you're still within the range of normalcy, and she probably has other people within her peer group that are not on Facebook. But when you really start pushing her out of that range, that's when I think everything will really start happening behind her back. For me, I didn't say "screw it" until I was 14 and still not allowed to go to houses where there would even be guys there at all, so fairly more extreme than this FB situation. But then again, she might be in a more permissive peer group than I was, or have more of a temperament of not caring about consequences.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:36 PM on April 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

In 3-4 years, when they're supposedly going to be allowed on facebook, they'll be far behind their peer group. It has a high chance of building resentment - take it from someone who had parents with your protective mindframe, and who had a lot of limitations (and arguments) about staying connected to friends. Being left out really sucks when you're young, especially when all your pals are doing this obviously harmless thing and your parents have this seemingly arbitrary decision about it.

If you won't budge, then you won't budge. But I will recommend it anyway, because I've seen over and over how this can backfire on a parent-child relationship. I think if you try to compromise with her instead of taking something away entirely, and continue teaching her net safety, you both will be far happier.

I recommend that you voice disappointment over not discussing this with you before opening the account, but also praise her for finally being honest about it. And then see if you can meet her in the middle, depending on what her needs for facebook are.

It's really important for a child to have a parent that is always open to discussion on rules. It's important that she feels she can discuss them with you calmly, without you resorting to "I said no and that's that" as a way of ending the topic. If she understands the rule, she will be far more receptive to it. There's just a balance between that and seeing all her friends do something she's not allowed to, that you have to walk on.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 12:37 PM on April 27, 2010

Talk to her. I personally wouldn't forbid it, and would encourage her not to be secretive about it. Facebook is how many teens communicate now, and while I see the dangers in letting a kid be online, I also know it's impossible to monitor them all the time.

Teach her how to make her info private to anyone except her friends. Tell her that if anyone she doesn't know friends her, she can ignore the request and in doing so not expose her private info to them.

Alternately, come down on her and forbid Facebook, but expect that you're just going to drive the behavior underground. There are some advantages to this however - if she can't get online at home, she's going to be online less often. Facebook is a huge distraction. It has an upside (social connectedness) which is as true for kids as it is for adults, but I think it's more of a time sink for kids (and especially girls) at this age.

But what others have said above. Choose your battles wisely, be flexible, loving, and willing to listen and talk.
posted by zippy at 12:45 PM on April 27, 2010

As others have said, you won't win this one in terms of keeping her off FB. I would get an account for yourself, and thoroughly familiarize yourself with it. Then let her have her account, but insist on having her password. Go into the account with her, and adjust all the privacy settings to friends only.

Explain to her that even with these changes, people who are not on FB can still see a lot of her information. For instance, if a friend who doesn't have their profile set to "friends only" posts a picture on their page that includes your daughter, and tags it with your daughter's name, then anyone anywhere can see it. If she posts something on a friend's wall, and that friend doesn't have the correct privacy settings, then again anyone can see it. If she posts an event on her page, or accepts an event invitation, then anyone can see that, as well. Explain that this means that if she has an event posted that basically tells people that the whole family is going to be at a picnic at 2pm on Sunday, then someone could break into your house at that time. (Theoretically, you can adjust the privacy settings to make that private. But there are reports going around that it doesn't actually keep your info private. Same thing with your likes and interests. Better safe than sorry.)

Explain to her that she should never, ever enter a phone number in anything that asks for it, because those are frequently scams that will then start charging things to your phone bill. She should also never open any attachment that comes to her in a FB email, because there have been viruses being spread that way. She should never click on any ads, because there have been phony coupon offers that are also causing havoc on people's computers. Tell her to never, ever accept a friend invitation unless she knows the person in person. (I don't know if you want to touch on the whole sexual predator issue at this age, but I imagine you've discussed the whole Stranger Danger thing with her, so you could just say that some people lie about who they are, and pretend to be kids, so that they can meet someone to kidnap.) Better yet, establish the rule that she can't accept the invitation without you approving it.

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but unless you monitor your child 24/7, they absolutely will figure out a way to be on the site anyway. So you might as well be involved. They truly don't understand the dangers involved, but most kids are pretty good about obeying rules when they understand the reason for the rules. If you explain it from the point of view of wanting to keep her safe, and keep your house safe, she'll be more likely to accept it.

Also, you should be aware that with the recent changes FB made, they're now tied into lots of other online sites. My daughter mentioned that she was on Pandora the other day, and when a particular song played, a picture popped up of a guy she hadn't emailed in two years, and there was a caption telling her that he liked this song, too. The implications of that ability to link things together is awfully scary.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:48 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really recommend you let your daughter use Facebook, and just follow some of the excellent advice given in this thread. I have two nieces who started using FB at age 11, and it's been almost wholly unproblematic. They've been told not to accept Friend requests from anyone they don't know, their privacy settings are high, they don't provide contact or location information on their pages, and their mothers monitor their activity. For my part, as their aunt, I love them being on there (and have played a role in looking out for them) because it helps me stay in tune with what's going on in their day to day lives.
posted by orange swan at 12:49 PM on April 27, 2010

Preventing an 11-year old child from having a Facebook page is not being strict--it's a) being sensible and b) following COPPA, which is the law.

As to the argument that all her friends are using Facebook and she will thus be excluded from her peer group if she does not, I declare shenanigans: the parent's job is to protect the child, not ensure the child's conformance to peer standards.

I wasn't allowed to have pierced ears until I was 16. I survived without ostracism. This child will survive a 2-3 year Facebook embargo.

Meanwhile, make it clear that she's disappointed you, mom, and that though she may not understand the decisions you make for her, those decisions are in her best interest.
posted by gsh at 12:49 PM on April 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

Imagine if, when you were a teenager, your parents had refused to let you use the phone. They were afraid that you might call strangers or tell people that you were home alone or make prank calls, so the phone was off limits. They said you were too young and that they wouldn't be willing to reconsider until you were 14 or 15.

That's what Facebook is to your daughter. Kids use it for most of their social interactions, replacing phone call, emails, and face to face conversation. It's how they make plans, socialize, tell secrets, and generally learn the social norms of their peer group. If she's not on it, she probably misses out on invitations to hang out, news about her friends' lives, the opportunity to explore her budding crushes and romantic feelings, school gossip, help with homework, and all of the other things that kids this age need to get from their peers. If you tell her she can't use it, you're essentially telling her that she can't interact with her friends outside of school and activities that you set up for her. I realize that it's uncomfortable for you, but you're hampering her ability to be a normal kid here, as well as teaching her that you're seriously out of touch with her concerns about the world.

Use this as an opportunity to set ground rules. I like KokuRyu's list. Do what you need to do to feel safer, and keep an eye on her, but please don't single her out and cut her off from her peers this way, at a time in her life when she's desperate to feel secure and fit in.
posted by decathecting at 12:52 PM on April 27, 2010 [30 favorites]

i would focus on the fact that she did this behind your back. that is Not Okay.


i personally don't think that you should compromise even in favor of her keeping pace with her peers. if you don't think that facebook is a good idea right now, then she can't have a facebook account. if you were willing to compromise in some way, i would address the trust issue first.

she can't go behind your back.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 12:52 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make her give you the password. Add one of your e-mail accounts to her account so that you also receive notifications when anything activity takes place on the page. Go through all the privacy settings and crank them up to the max. There may be a lot of things you may want to set to "Me Only" in the advanced privacy settings, especially photos and locations.
posted by vees at 12:54 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Rule #1 in our house (with an 11 year old daughter asking EVERY DAY if she can get a Facebook account) is "Thou Shall Not Lie. Ever." So I think if she does, in fact, fess up to you this evening she should be lauded for her honesty. On the other hand, she lied to Facebook in order to open an account while still under the age of 13. And now she is lying about her age to everyone who sees her profile. In our house at least, this could not stand. Her Facebook account would be deleted (I would make her do it herself under my supervision), and that would be the end of it. No further punishment or lecturing required. When she is of an allowable age under the Facebook terms of use, she would be perfectly free to open another account.
posted by JeffK at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2010 [11 favorites]

As to the argument that all her friends are using Facebook and she will thus be excluded from her peer group if she does not, I declare shenanigans: the parent's job is to protect the child, not ensure the child's conformance to peer standards.

I totally agree that it is the parent's job to protect the child. (I also agree, btw, than not allowing an 11 y.o. on FB isn't overly strict)

However, sometimes the most effective way to protect your child is not to solidly clutch on to firm rules. The child has its own interests and the older the child gets, the more ready willing and able it will be to circumvent the rules. Sometimes the most effective way to protect your child is to take its interests into account, so the child isn't jumping 2 feet through the air to a nearby tree to climb down from the second story, as one of my best friends did to sneak out of the house after her 8 p.m curfew.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't make her socially disconnect herself. Telling a tween girl not to use facebook is like telling a chimpanzee not to groom the other chimpanzees for ticks.
posted by tehloki at 1:02 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Delete the profile. She can have it back when she's 13, and it's legal to have a profile.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:24 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you were to allow Facebook, I can tell you my 17 year old does, and has friended me (as has a number of her friends) and I have an insight into her (their) lives that I might not otherwise. For example, one of them was contemplating allowing a friend to take arty nude shots, and I spoke to my daughter about the consequences and she talked to her friend and she decided against it. I know 17 is much older than 11, and I sympathise with you. My daughter has been using social media for a long time, she had an earlier myspace page that claimed she was 18 when she was 14 to get around some site rules. I was uncomfortable, but I pretty much run with the idea, if she's talking to me about it, and telling me what she's doing to protect herself etc, she's forming her own ideas about safety etc.

Even on a safe website like Bebo Hotel (I think that's what it's called), she's faced sexual harassment (a boy called her a nasty name and suggested some sexual activity) when she was 12 or so. She immediately reported him to the administrators and came and told me because she felt a bit shaky. I thought she handled it well and was proud of her, and it was a step in her independence.

Good luck.
posted by b33j at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

i just want to pop in again to note something else: you mention an ex. the way you say it makes it sound like there may be some issues between the two of you. you are a single parent. you've got to be able to hold your ground with your daughter, especially if things with the ex are in a bad place or if the court has anything to do with your lives. that is so important as a single parent. that, to me, trumps any concern about the social ramifications of an 11 year old barred temporarily from facebook. don't go crazy, but hold your ground.

considering the legality of the thing, and the fact that she went behind your back, your reasons for banning her from facebook are ironclad.

lots of good suggestions in this thread about ways to manage facebook for her if you ever changed your mind. but that's going to have to come from you, not from your daughter or her friends.

you know your daughter best.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 1:33 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

One more thought just occurred to me. Is it possible that she didn't want to make the profile but was pressured into it by being in that situation with a group of friends, or by a particularly pushy friend who took the initiative? If so, I think it would be definitely worthwhile to hear her thoughts on peer pressure and brainstorm solutions for those situations together.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:36 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

facebook privacy news
posted by lakersfan1222 at 1:39 PM on April 27, 2010

If I were in your shoes:

Before she got home, I would read her Facebook page and write down a few choice details, simple things you can quote off the top of your head, like the name of a boy she said she liked, or that such-and-such friend's comment about homework was pretty funny. But don't say these things yet.

After she admitted to me what she'd done, I would show her that she's done something inappropriate, not because I said it was inappropriate, but because the web site itself does. I would show her the part of the Terms of Service that say you must be at least thirteen, then delete the account in front of her, not vindictively, but matter-of-factly.

Next, I would say "Now, I specifically told you not to do this. I'm proud of you for telling me that you did it, and I understand it must have been hard for you to lie to me about this -- and hard to admit that you'd lied." Then I would give her a hug.

After the hug, I'd say "The thing you need to understand is that there are very good reasons that you shouldn't be using Facebook, beyond Facebook's age restriction. The biggest reason is that you never know who might be reading it, and you could get hurt, physically or emotionally, if the wrong person found that information and used it against you. So, I'm going to [whatever reasonable punishment I deemed suitable], which is not nearly as bad as what I would have done if you hadn't told me."

Hopefully she'd accept that, apologize, and that would be the end of it. However, if she challenged me with something like "I won't get hurt; nobody knows it's me/I didn't use my real name/I know who's reading it", I would raise an eyebrow, and say "Oh? That's a good thing, because I wouldn't want someone to find out you have a crush on [the boy's name]", or something similar, from that first step I took. Once she realized I'd known about the account, for some length of time/by some means she doesn't know about, and how much trouble she'd have gotten into if she hadn't 'fessed up, it would likely leave a lasting impression.
posted by davejay at 1:43 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, and when she asked "Well, when CAN I use Facebook?" I would say "When you're old enough to use it according to Facebook, you and I will talk about it, but you'll have to have regularly demonstrated that you're mature enough to use it safely, and without hiding things from me, before I'll even consider saying yes."
posted by davejay at 1:45 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

>Delete the profile. She can have it back when she's 13, and it's legal to have a profile.

FYI it's not illegal to have a profile, it's simply against Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities which is a glorified TOS.
posted by pyro979 at 1:50 PM on April 27, 2010

pyro979, it's actually illegal for Facebook to give her a profile. They're the ones who are theoretically breaking the law, not the kid. (See the COPPA link referenced above - it's the reason all sorts of sites ask for your age/over 13 status.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:51 PM on April 27, 2010

If you don't use Facebook, it may be really hard for you to understand just how large a role Facebook can play in one's social interactions. Let me help you understand how important Facebook can be, so maybe you can understand the social pressures your child's dealing with.

I didn't use Facebook at all until, maybe, about a year ago. Or maybe even less. I thought it was stupid, just another site like MySpace or Livejournal where people posted inane stuff that no one cared about. So, I just didn't care, didn't sign up for it, ignored it.

...Until I started noticing how much everyone else kept talking about it. Hanging out with colleagues, the conversation would inevitably turn to what so-and-so had posted, or what recent life developments had been discovered for mutual friends, etc. It's not that everyone's life was so sad and boring that even stupid stuff posted online was discussed -- no, instead, it's that Facebook was being used to express what was happening in real life for friends, colleagues, and family. There were parties with invites handled through Facebook, so I wasn't invited just because people forgot. I was being left out, because Facebook was being used as a way to keep in touch and keep active in other people's life. Without using Facebook, I wasn't keeping in touch, I wasn't active in the lives of my friends. This wasn't true of just distant friends, but also those who worked one door down from me. If they posted something on Facebook (whether it be something important, such as getting into a really good graduate program, or getting a new job, etc, or really negligible things that are still worth discussing with friends, like getting a new phone, or reading a good book, etc), they assumed everyone knew about it. Since I didn't see anything they posted on Facebook, I didn't know.

So, I finally joined. I caved to peer pressure, because I cared about my friends and wanted to know what was up with them. I can imagine that, were I younger, those social pressures would be even stronger. There is so much about middle school and high school social groupings that is fast-paced and (nowadays) internet savvy, that it could be very difficult to remain social if everyone else was on Facebook and you're not.

I'm not saying you should give in and let your daughter use Facebook -- I think you need to think more about what role your daughter's subterfuge played in whatever decision you make, and I think a lot of the advice above about reasonable measures to protect your child's wellbeing are spot on. However, I do think that the appropriate response will depend on your ability to understand your daughter's situation. You'll respond best if you can respond in an informed, caring way. I provide the information above so you can, perhaps, see how something so seemingly trivial as a stupid website could, perhaps, be far more important than you'd expect.
posted by Ms. Saint at 1:55 PM on April 27, 2010

My parents were afraid of the internet when I was young, pre-high school (circa middle-late nineties) and relatively close to your daughter's position. As a result, I missed out on tons of early internet culture that I'd love to be able to go back and experience as it happened. There certainly wasn't as much going on socially back then, but the internet was still a huge draw with huge rewards.

I can only imagine what kind of draw Facebook is to someone in her age group right now.
I know you said you weren't really looking for a plan or script, but here's the path I'd take:
1. Don't be angry. Angry parents are easy to ignore.
2. Wait for her to confess. If she does:
Ask her why she created a Facebook account. More specifically, ask her why your reasons for not doing it didn't convince her to not do it. That is perhaps the only important part of this entire issue. "Because I say so" is never an acceptable parenting answer for a bright kid, and if you are really looking for compliance then factual persuasion is going to be important. If she's like me at that age, she's had experiences with adults that eroded any concept of the infallibility of adults.
3. Don't delete the account. Of course there are many ways you can restrict her access, etc, but if you delete the account straight away it's going to be very emotional and dramatic, and feel vindictive to her even if it isn't. In fact most people believe Facebook accounts can't really be deleted anyway, and are just waiting for a login attempt to spring back to life.
4. Decide some kind of punishment or restriction or something, of course. But the discussion is going to be the most important thing.
posted by Phyltre at 1:58 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

i am really surprised at the number of responses suggesting you should relax your rule and overlook her defiance of it because it might stunt her socially. I do not get that at all. She's 11. A no facebook rule is very reasonable and i would guess pretty common. I know my 10 year old is not allowed on and even my 14 year old has several friends who are not. All of them do very well socially and noone is made fun of because they aren't on facebook. If your child runs with a crowd who ostrasizes her for not having a profile, she needs new friends not a facebook page. So what if she misses out on an in joke or 2.

If you have a rule and your child openly defies it, you need to call her on it. I don't even care if you punish her (other than deleting the profile) , but don't back down because of peer pressure. BAD message. If you think she isn't ready or you are uncomfortable to what it opens up, that is your decision. There is not a damn thing wrong with setting a boundary and sticking to it.

I keep thinking all those college kids who have been on FB forever must think it has turned into hell on earth with all the 3rd graders and old farts like me on it.
posted by domino at 1:59 PM on April 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

pyro979, it's actually illegal for Facebook to give her a profile.

No. It could only be illegal for providers to allow profiles to be registered by users who do not simply provide a qualifying birthdate, or check the "I am over 13" box, or hit "Agree" to whatever boilerplate includes in its fine print the statement that user is of minimum legal age. One of these actions is required before the provider's automated system will even allow creation of a profile.
posted by applemeat at 2:04 PM on April 27, 2010

She went behind your back AND broke rules and lied to get the Facebook account set up. Not cool on multiple levels. So first of all, no, no Facebook until she's 13. Second of all, no lying.

I would delete the account, but try to minimize the inherent drama. No Dramatic Pushing Of The Big Blue Button. Just nope, not allowed. With a followup of "c'mon, how can I figure out how mature you are when you lie to me and break rules behind my back?"

Look, I think that drinking laws in this country are silly and misguided, and I was absolutely allowed to have wine on special occasions when I was 11, but I wasn't allowed to get a fake ID and shop for the vino myself. Or, to use a non-legal example, I wasn't allowed to lie to get into movie theaters for R-rated movies. Because, you know, lying and sneaking is wrong?

Imagine if, when you were a teenager, your parents had refused to let you use the phone. They were afraid that you might call strangers or tell people that you were home alone or make prank calls, so the phone was off limits. They said you were too young and that they wouldn't be willing to reconsider until you were 14 or 15.

She's not a teenager, she's 11 or 12. And yeah, in the pre-internet, pre-cellphone days, at 11, a lot of us weren't allowed free reign to talk on the phone whenever and to whomever we wanted. And when we did talk on the phone, it wasn't privately.
posted by desuetude at 2:05 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would strongly recommend against davejay's advice. My mother did something similar after she found a ticket stub to an R-rated movie in my pockets while doing my laundry, and fifteen years later, I can still remember how angry I was with her. If you don't want her to be underhanded with you, please don't be underhanded with her.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 2:12 PM on April 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

Datapoint: It was before Facebook, but I started doing proto-social-networking around 11 and ended up fine. It was how I communicated with my friends-- most of whom I had met online-- during the time in middle school when my meatspace peers were extremely cruel.

My parents taught me to be super paranoid about giving out personal information; most of my internet friends didn't even know what city I lived in (and this is a pretty big city) until I was really good friends with them.

I was harassed some online, yeah-- but I was constantly harassed by my classmates in meatspace, so the internet was the safest space I had.

I'd monitor it-- make sure she's only friending people she actually knows, stuff like that-- but for god's sake, don't try to log into her account, that's a gross invasion of privacy.
posted by NoraReed at 2:15 PM on April 27, 2010

Well, verging on a derail, those provisions constitute a way for Facebook to not have "actual knowledge" that a given user is a child. They're not super likely to get sued over it, although I don't know if anyone's attempted to challenge the current methods of acquiring age as being sufficient protection. As soon as the OP tells them the kid's underage though, then it would be illegal for them to keep the profile open.

What is relevant for the OP, though, is that Facebook is legally required to make available a description of the personal information they've collected, a way for you to get that information, and they can (and will) close the kid's account once you tell them that she's underage.

While I think 13 is a pretty arbitrary age, I don't actually object to it. I've heard too many horror stories of kids getting prosecuted for child porn for posting/sending nude pics of themselves and whatnot to trust our somewhat insane legal system to behave rationally, and I know better than to assume an 11-year-old can take those risks into account.

So yeah, I am siding with the folks who say that she just shouldn't have an account for another couple of years. I think davejay has some very sensible advice about how to handle the situation.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:17 PM on April 27, 2010

Blue Jello Elf, the difference is that the contents of your pockets weren't publicly available on the internet. That is a critical, fundamental distinction here.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:18 PM on April 27, 2010

I feel like people dismissing the child's desire to connect with her friends online are doing exactly what's going to make her resent her parent. Yes, she's a small kid. And yes, the world can be big and scary. But preventing access to it entirely when her social group might be swimming in it like fish, is going to hurt her. There are groups of friends who don't have online access and manage just fine. Then there are groups whose lives (and invitations into those lives) are strongly embedded in online media like that. You can't arbitrarily cut it off, without first establishing how strong of a setting this is among her social group. This is why discussions are important, even with a small child who you might be tempted to dismiss with "I'm your mom and I know better." You have to understand where she's coming from, just as she needs to understand your parental concerns. And I mean really understand, not half-listen to just to reiterate how protective you are of her.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 2:21 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

davejay: "Before she got home, I would read her Facebook page and write down a few choice details, simple things you can quote off the top of your head, like the name of a boy she said she liked, or that such-and-such friend's comment about homework was pretty funny."

Impossible without these 2 things occurring:
1. the mother creates a facebook account
2. the daughter would need to "friend" her mom

posted by aMeta4 at 2:22 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

1. is simple - and probably a good idea, so the OP has a clue about what Facebook isall about and why the kids these days are so into it, and 2. totally depends on how the kid has her privacy settings set up.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:24 PM on April 27, 2010

She's a tween. The situations where she is going to experience peer pressure to do something that you don't want her to do (at that age, at least) are only going to multiply as she gets older. Talking this aspect of it through with her might be a useful exercise to set some groundwork for the future.

I don't know what to tell you about the Facebook account, but I see this as an opportunity for the two of you to discuss peer pressure. The urge to fit in with one's peers is powerfully strong and not to be underestimated. At the same time, she is old enough to understand that she still needs to follow your rules and be honest always. It can be hard for kids that age to fathom just how quickly situations can turn dangerous in ways they can't even imagine at that age.

When I was a teenager there where things my parents were initially overly-strict about but relented, and there were a few other very bright lines I understood not to cross under any circumstances. Having my parents relent on an over-strict rule did not diminish their authority; instead, I felt like I had made a case and been heard, and continued to stay within the bright lines on the truly big things.
posted by ambrosia at 2:25 PM on April 27, 2010

2. totally depends on how the kid has her privacy settings set up.

Wouldn't someone in the daughter's peer group (or peer's peer group at least)need to friend the mother to see any comments her daughter made?
posted by aMeta4 at 2:29 PM on April 27, 2010

Depending on settings, a stranger with an account can see:

- your friends
- your birthday, relationship status, anything in the bio - basically all the "personal info" options
- Pages you "like"
- location (which can be a real problem if the kid doesn't know how much detail is appropriate for the internet)
- Posts to your wall by friends
- Photos, although this defaults to a more restricted setting

Basically just about everything *can* be set to "visible by everyone." It can mostly all be turned off, too, of course. Mostly.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:39 PM on April 27, 2010

First of all, I think she should have some sort of punishment because she ignored your rules and lied (by omission, at least) to you. You have to show her that this behaviour is unacceptable, otherwise you're just rewarding shady behaviour.

Secondly, what if you compromised? She can have a facebook account, after a sufficient punishment period, but ONLY if you have full access to it/she only accesses it when you are able to supervise her/you make your own account and she must make you a "friend" with full access/all options must be on full private, etc. And make it clear that any breaking of the rules results in a deletion of the account and severe consequences (including, but not limited to, removal of all computer access)?

Oh, and IANAParent :)
posted by 1000monkeys at 2:41 PM on April 27, 2010

Find out what personal data Facebook publishes about people by entering their Facebook username here. Background here. Related: another privacy hole has been discovered which apparently leaks information about events you plan to attend to people outside your "friend" network, regardless of your privacy settings.
(via EFF from boingboing)
posted by aMeta4 at 2:53 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and be careful about posting pictures. I've been able to view pic's of people who are otherwise on private by viewing comments somebody else made on them who have a public profile (and no, I wasn't stalking anybody). :-)
posted by 1000monkeys at 3:05 PM on April 27, 2010

I would start that conversation by being more interested in listening to her than in talking. Don't decide what "punishment" or whatever you're going to do before you talk to her. Make it clear up front that you just want to hear her talk about why she set up the Facebook account: did she really want to or was it peer pressure? Ask her about how she plans to use it; does she know about privacy settings? Does she already know the stuff about not giving out personal information? What does she think should be done now? Does she want to keep the account? Is there anything she doesn't know about it but wishes she did? Etc.

Listen, then say, "OK, thanks. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this yet. I need to think about it. We'll talk again at [X time]. Until then, don't use the account."

Because, for me, and IAAP, it would make a big difference how she answered those questions. I'd be concerned if she signed up for it out of peer pressure; if she didn't really want to, I'd be glad to play The Evil Mom Who Will Absolutely Kill Me, So Sorry Guys I Just Can't Do It; if she really wanted the account, I'd be interested to hear her thoughts about why, what she thinks she'll do with it, how savvy she seems to be about how it works. I might want to make a couple of phone calls to parents who let their kids have accounts to hear why they think that's OK and how they handle it. I'd want to give myself time to cool off from any initial anger reactions so I didn't make things worse.
posted by not that girl at 3:28 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really like the idea of allowing her to keep the facebook profile, but getting access to her password. Make it clear you will be logging on frequently and keeping tabs on what she is doing online. I would frequently log on and have discussions with her about what is happening and what sort of messages she is sending out. As long as this is done completely out in the open, it will teach her to be careful about what she does and says online, and what her friends are saying. You won't be able to get that level of control over her Facebook account when she is 14 or 15 (unless your really are that crazy parent). I'm friends with several high school aged kids on Facebook, and I'm often surprised by the inappropriate things they share.

Of course, an additional punishment (believe me, your mother having access to your Facebook account is the worst punishment imaginable) should be set up for lying and going behind your back.
posted by fermezporte at 3:34 PM on April 27, 2010

Lots of good advice here, enough to make me feel warm and fuzzy about MetaFilter... I am a parent and I realise that 'At what age should I let my kid use [Facebook, MySpace, etc]?' is a popular topic of concern but I do think it's nuts, and I imagine there were parents who behaved strangely about children and telephones a century ago. My daughter is welcome to fire up a web page as soon as she has the basics of HTML down...

Do be a KokuRyu here. You have so much to gain by going that route. Davejay = you will be lied to and not confessed to, you will be laughed at behind your back, you will be disrespected and will have earned the disrespect. Don't patronize, humiliate, or belittle your child.
posted by kmennie at 3:56 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

I vote for sticking to the rule... no Facebook until she's 13. She'll survive. She may resent, you but being resented comes with the job description. My kids dealt with it, rolled their eyes about us when their friends commiserated at how unreasonable we are... and now that they are in college, they've thanked us for our rules.
That said, if you do cave... in addition to the safeguards others have proposed, set a time limit. My 11 year old gets 30 minutes of internet time a day; sometimes chafes at that but after 30 minutes it's go outside and play, read a book, play a game with me. And have the computer in the living room or other high-traffic common area - never the bedroom.
posted by evilmomlady at 3:59 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lots of great advice here. My first advice is to learn about Facebook. Over here on this thread it reconnected a birth mom and a child. If you have pre-existing issues with your ex, you need to figure that stuff out. You're not clear on what that relationship is, but if he's in the picture at all he may at some point get to weigh in on stuff like this. As a parent, some would consider that a right. Now, if he's a jerk for any number of reasons, feel free to ignore all that.

davejay's advice is passive aggressive and manipulative. I seems to boil down to "hey, you disobeyed me, let me delete this new basic communications channel, now give me a hug, oh, also i'm omniscient and don't you dare try and do anything on your own like this again." That is a recipe for resentment and rebellion on a grand scale.

My advice: be honest. Your goal is for your child to be healthy, happy, and safe. You think Facebook at this time, even though everyone else is doing it, is not the right thing right now for the reasons outlined above. Your goal is to be a resource for your child on their journey toward being an independent person who makes their own decisions. So to that end, communicate your objections and have a discussion about how it is you can have both your goals met. Her health and wellbeing, and her ability to communicate with her friends. Lots of good ideas here for navigating both.
posted by artlung at 4:29 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

As to the argument that all her friends are using Facebook and she will thus be excluded from her peer group if she does not, I declare shenanigans: the parent's job is to protect the child, not ensure the child's conformance to peer standards.

It's not an either or binary choice.

Look, my daughter was given free reign over the internet, no blocking of anything with several caveats: her computer was in the family room( and stayed there till she was 16). She had a yahoo account when she was 4, with the explicit understand that we knew the password and would monitor it, much as we'd vaguely monitor her internet usage. We sat her down and explained the rough rules of the internet i.e. no giving out of any info, whatsoever. If a site she wanted to get on demanded it, she was to make something up, but never, ever, EVER give out real info to anyone on the internet. Any sort of myspace, facebook etc, we were to have access to it, and would vaguely monitor it, check it out etc. We explicitly told her that we expected her to act like she been brought up while on the internet. With all the sexting and other OMG THE INTERNET IS EVIL issues, we discuss them or brought it to her attention as they circulated through the media.

Things turned out ok. I'm sure she did (and does) stuff that we wouldn't approve of. *shrug* every kid needs to do that to some extent, the trick is setting some boundaries, giving guidance and making it clear that you're there if things go wrong. Everything else is learning experience, as you cross your fingers and pray.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

facebook's not all that. just sayin'. no need to let your 11 year old loose on the 'net. and yeah, you do need her password if you do plan on letting her facebook, because, legally, that's your account.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:17 PM on April 27, 2010

I would vote for:

1) Getting your own Facebook account and checking in on her account. If all of her privacy setting are correct (pretty much nothing other than maybe her first name is shown), then ask for her password so you can make sure there's no inappropriate messaging or anything, at least until she's 13/14. (By inappropriate, I mean with creepy people on the internet, not necessarily venting to her girlfriends about mean teachers and using curse words.) Tell her if she changes her password without telling you, there will be X punishment, up to and including taking down her Facebook for awhile.
2) If her privacy settings are NOT correct (i.e. she has her real home town, last name, picture, etc), then point out how super dangerous that is and part of the reason you didn't want her to have the account yet. Then help her fix it (you need to know how to do this, obviously), and suggest she point out to any friends she has that maybe they need to take down some stuff, too. Facebook can't share information that simply isn't there.
3) Punishing her in some way for going behind your back, but not too badly, especially if she comes to you and tells you herself. This is where you can say you're relaxing your rules a *little* bit (to having the parent-monitored account) because you've talked to other parents about how important it is as a communication tool and you think this is a good compromise, NOT that you're just letting her keep it because she already made it.

If you just forbid her outright when it is the main way her peer group communicates, she will either do it anyway at the library or a different friend's house or school, or she will gradually start getting left out of things. Anyone who tells someone who's starting middle school soon to "get a new peer group," just because they use Facebook and they're not otherwise mean girls, does not have clear remembrances of how godawful it was to be a middle school girl. Having a group of friends you mostly like and mostly trust from 12-15 is probably more important at that age than any other age I can think of. Otherwise, you get thrown to the wolves. If her friends *don't* actually use Facebook that much, then you'll have a pretty much dormant account to check up on.
posted by wending my way at 6:13 AM on April 28, 2010

facebook's not all that. just sayin'.

To you, as an adult, perhaps. But the internet is much more central in the lives of teenagers than it was when you and I were younger, which is probably why OP's daughter is so keen to sign up to it. I'm 28 and I conduct and arrange almost everything online - I don't even have the telephone numbers of many of my friends. I can't really comment on the issue here, as I don't have a child myself and can understand why he/she is worried about it, but it helps to understand why the daughter might be so mad keen to have an account if any real discussion is to take place.

My nephew is 15 and has had a Facebook account for a couple of years, but he mainly uses it to play quizzes. A smart kid will be able to understand what sort of information can be given to strangers, but it's still too easy to ignore or not to understand the risks. You will, if you decide to let her use it, need to explain to her about cyber-bullying and how it should be treated in exactly the same way as 'real' bullying.

When I first started using the internet at 16, social networking as we know it didn't really exist, aside from Bolt.com. The privacy settings Facebook allows will keep her much more protected than the internet of my teens.
posted by mippy at 3:46 PM on April 28, 2010

hey, btw, i did a quick survey around the office, and every single parent of an 11 year old said "no fucking way" to facebook.

my coworkers are all super-mainstream, have multiple children, and the 11 year olds are reportedly not suffering. or at least not more than normal.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:43 PM on April 29, 2010

So, any follow up? Did you talk to your daughter? What did you end up doing? Inquiring minds and all that ;)
posted by 1000monkeys at 12:43 AM on May 1, 2010

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