Teens & Risky Online Behavior
Archived Q&A and Reviews
When my college-aged daughter was home over the holidays I learned she was posting nude photos of herself on a site where men pay to view photos, live chat, view videos and exchange messages with women. Needless to say, I was extremely disturbed, and scared for her. Aside from explicit photos, she had details about herself that would allow someone to figure out who she was and without too much effort, where she went to school and where she lived. To make a long story short, she deleted her account, but she still doesn't see anything wrong with posting the photos.
When I spoke with her about it, her views were 180 degrees different from mine. She felt that that as a feminist, this was her way of taking a stand against male oppression (!), that she had many friends who did this and she really wanted to do it. When I brought up the point of how these photos could be out in the world for anyone to see and could affect her future jobs, etc., she said that it was illegal to discriminate and that anyone who would judge her, should they see the photos, was judgmental and she wouldn't want much to do with them.
I feel participating in a site like this is dangerous, damaging to self-esteem, objectifies women, etc. My question is this: Does anyone in the BPN community have any recommendations of articles/essays/etc. that I could pass on to her to give her some insight into my view? Not anything long or academic or hard to understand -- just something that might make sense and open her eyes to my viewpoint so we can keep talking about it. Thank you. Anon
Whoa - tricky. I know there are a lot of great feminist writers out there - I'm not an expert so I hope someone can provide a good list. Susie Bright comes to mind immediately - and I think she's pretty accessible. You might try contacting her directly for advice.
All I'd like to add: Regarding your daughter's comments ''...it's illegal to discriminate'' - yes, but how often does it still happen? And how does one prove it? Prosecute it? People still suffer the consequences and can do little or nothing to prevent it or punish it.
And ''wouldn't want anything to do with anyone judgmental'' - well, we ALL are, if you think about it. We all have are own ethics, morals, viewpoints and we simply cannot agree on all of them, and some things fall into extreme categories and are dealbreakers. And what she did falls into the extreme category and can indeed affect her life in negative ways she cannot foresee right now. She's closing opportunities before they happen. Maybe she won't want them, but she simply won't be given the choice for some things because of this.
Doing extreme things at a young age actually narrows your life - not expands it. You are labelled and judged. Assumptions are made. I'm not advocating a bland existence, just a more carefully thought-out one. It's important to have opinions and causes and a purpose in life, but be more thoughtful how you want to go about it. elena
Your daughter has a mistaken and immature notion of an employers obligation ''not to discriminate.'' You may not discriminate based on a protected class of traits, you can absolutely choose not to hire an otherwise qualified candidate based on a work history that includes pornography, and make no mistake there are plenty of jobs that will not be available to someone who has been in porn (e.g. anything requiring a security clearance, anything involved with working with children, professions that value character, etc.).
She may be right that it doesn't matter at this point because it is too late, but if she wants to try and show some forward thought she may want to stop now before her career choices are limited to those in which nudity for money is valued... grow up!
I know you will get plenty of support and feedback on this topic. My heart breaks for you as a parent - having such different views about something so intimate is difficult.
Two recent stories in the Chronicle (SF Gate online):
1. Teacher fired for stripping - she fought it and a higher court said she was rightly fired, she would ''never get respect.''
2. Revenge Porn - granted this is not the women's choice, but it does point out some have lost jobs because of the photos and some of the photos live on at many other sites despite attempts to delete them.Link:http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Women-on-revenge-porn-sites-describe-their-4213364.php#page-3
I also just googled ''fired for posting nude pictures'' and a ton came up.
She is not empowering herself, and unfortunately it seems like it will take her a long time to realize that. She should expect that despite deleting that account, those photos will follow her for a long time. Wishing you the best
Please inform your daughter that most prospective employers, prospective suitors, and others will consider her a prostitute and will have nothing to do with her. I hope you convince her of this ASAP, and then consult an online reputation firm to get this stuff off the online world entirely.
Sorry for your troubles, hope you can get your daughter to see this as most adults would. Also a Mom.
I have questions on how to handle my child's inappropriate online/texting. I looked through the BPN archives and saw nothing about reporting this stuff to authorities. Is there a reason not to do that? What am I missing? My 13 year old daughter was interacting with strangers via internet, email and text. I saw a chat with a stranger on a site called omegle and a photo she sent via email of herself nude. I read text messages and found photos of 3 nude males. I also found her planning to meet someone this summer. She and I spoke at length about the danger and I have taken away her cell phone and netbook until I get parental controls in place. I used to monitor her cell phone use but when I saw my husband was cheating he cut my access to our family account... (that's a different can of worms). It is only recently that I am able to view her use but I have missed everything except a couple days before I took her devices away. I still need to learn more about what she has been doing, including addresses phone numbers etc. In the meantime, I have been trying to learn more about what I should do. 1. What is a good program for monitoring the internet? 2. Child abuse cyber tip line stuff? (I found the tip line via the FBI website) My community minded/researcher self asks...this might be data for investigating bad guys/people?...maybe she was being set up and it would be great to stop them from pursuing her or any other children. My mom self asks if reporting on the cyber tip line means she will suffer more if there is an investigation? Will more people see the photos of her if they become evidence? What if she gets in trouble for possession of photos of another minor child? (I can't tell how old these males are in the photos showing them from the neck down...). Does anyone have experience with making a report on the cyber tip line? 3. Any good training resources to get it through her head? (she said she knew it was dangerous but that lots of other kids do it too...) Is there a peer type movie that dramatizes the possible consequences? 4. Other questions I should be asking? SORRY for the long post! anon
I am concerned about the tone of your message. I want your priority to be your parenting skills and the safety of your daughter. As one of the directors of a peer-to-peer parenting group for teens, I know your daughter's behavior is highly risky. Your main job as a parent is to keep her safe. This isn't safe. If you are not already involved with a therapist, I highly urge you to find one for your family. This is not about the adults she found, it is really about why she needed to do it, why you as a family weren't aware of it, and how you are going to keep her safe. Her sense of herself right now is not healthy. A healthy teen interacts with peers, not on the computer. On the computer you can be whomever you want to be, come and go as you please, and not be accountable. It is imperative that you deal with your family's dynamics, including your husband's cheating, if your daughter is to have a chance to feel better about herself and lead a healthier life. Her behavior is a huge red flag. Please get professional help for your family as soon as possible.
A very good novel for teens about a girl who gets into a dangerous situation after getting involved with a guy online and then agreeing to meet him is Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman. Anonymous
There are episodes of Degrassi, the Canadian tv show about the fictional Degrassi High school in Toronto, which address a very creepy and dangerous situation from this very sort of posting. It's available on Cable, worth looking for. Mom of a Teen
Our almost-15 year old daughter has been setting up her own Facebook page without our consent and has been engaging in ''role-playing'' activities with others via Facebook's messaging feature. Some of these online messaging relationships, with both boys and girls, have involved the exchange of sexually explicit texting and, on at least one occasion that we know of, the exchange of nude photos via e-mail (not actually photos of her, but nude upper and lower torso photos that she has found on the Net). We were astonished to discover that Facebook's policies allow anyone 13 years or older to set up a Facebook account. In other words, minors can set up Facebook accounts without parental consent.
We are not sure at this point if this is even something that is legal or not under California or other state laws. But we are clear that such a policy undermines a parent's ability to raise healthy children and to protect them from potentially really negative influences. We are contemplating a class action lawsuit against Facebook around this issue and would very much like (1) to hear about other parent's experiences with Facebook and (2) to find out if there are any parents out there who are lawyers and who can help us figure out if there is a violation of law occurring here, and even if there isn't, what other steps need to be taken in order for us to take legal action, or other action, to prevent Facebook from offering minors access to Facebook without parental consent. We are sure we are not the only parents of teens in the Bay area or nationwide who are affected by the negative aspects of Facebook teen involvement. Very Concerned Parents
I absolutely agree about Facebook and would be happy to join a group of like-minded parents. You didn't provide any direct contact information, so feel free to email me.
I'm afraid you're going to need to do your own policing of your teen's use of Facebook (as it sounds like you have been). How is Facebook supposed to know how old users are?
You can purchase parental controls like Kidswatch if you want to ban her from Facebook from your house and limit her access to other sites as well. You can make sure the computer is in a family room so you can watch her use it. But she can go to the library or a friend's house and Facebook from there. If she's got a phone, she can take photos of herself or others and send them to others via email or text without Facebook even entering into it. You aren't going to be able to police everything.
You'll do better to work on the values side of things, talking to her about the real-life consequences of certain actions, what your concerns are, etc. You might find helpful advice in the book, ''When Things Get Crazy with your Teen,'' by Bradley. You might also take the long view here--what are your goals for her as an adult? How can you help her get there? Eventually she's going to be old enough to Facebook without your permission, to send nude photos, to have sex, etc. When that time comes, you want her to be able to use good judgement, not just think, ''my parents can't say no anymore!'' So teach her good judgement.
Just caught our 9th grade son sexting his new girlfriend on Skype. He left the messages up on the screen without clearing them, so there they were sitting for us. Quite explicit and frank in their sexuality. The girlfriend was responding with even more explicit responses, so it was being reinforced on both ends.
I would love people's thoughts on this. We responded by taking away Skype and computer privileges for one month, talking about the ''public'' side of sexting (both with people forwarding texts/pictures, as well as public being us, his parents), and have re-opened discussions about safe sex, readiness for sex.
He insists that sexting is pervasive, but we insist that it is not and will not be pervasive in our family. Is this the new version of having a Playboy-tucked-under-your-mattress sex exploration? Is there really any way to stop it besides completely unplugging him? We have talked to our older children and they agree that sexting is truly pervasive and that they received dozens and dozens of sexts and pictures/videos throughout high school.
Are we being old-fashioned? How best to respond to this? mom of a sexter
We added a restriction on photos and videos when both our teenagers got unlimited texting. It may not stop the explicit words, but we drew the line on photos/videos. Anon
I've caught my son sexting too (he's in 10th now), also on skype, because it is not apparent how to delete the chats I think but I have a feeling it's gone on on facebook, itouch, and phone too. There are so many possibilities! None of the times I saw were with a girlfriend but girls he knew...his age. I tried to stop it and mostly tried to communicate our values, sex as part of a loving relationship, not exploitive, don't try to get people to do what they don't want to, internet safety etc. etc. but like you I feel out of my depth. The chat was more explicit than I've ever been comfortable with myself! Part of me thinks good if he can talk to women about sex easily...and ultimately he will need to figure out what sex means to him but I keep trying to convey my values while knowing I can't really control the flow of information... anon
First of all - don't feel embarrassed or think something is wrong with your child. he is right; This problem is ubiquitous. However, you still need to tell him no.
He doesn't have to agree, he just has to realize that you have every right to insist on this in your home. He also needs to respect the fact that you are looking out for him and in your opinion it isn't wise or safe. You can give him your reasons and he can buy into it or not:
1) It isn't private. He may end up with private information in the wrong hands or photos ending up where he least wants them. ex: you found his conversation and he didn't mean for that to happen. What if the girl leaves her end open? What if someone deliberately passes on the images.
2) Kids do things over the computer they might not do in person and this may lead to the development of a kind of sexuality that in the end is damaging. You can tell your son that even the most liberal of us are concerned about the numbing effect of all of this. The sexual response is something to be protective of.
Do your best to police this. But don't fall apart if he doesn't comply right away. The important thing is that you minimize the behavior and stay firm. It doesn't matter what his brother thinks or whether or not it is pervasive. That isn't the point. You are right.
Don't be at all angry about this. Just be a broken record and take the computer down so they can't skype after 10pm. Make sure the computer is in a public place. Don't go back to unsupervised private skyping for a long time - it isn't necessary and is probably too big a temptation.
Good luck. Maria been there.
I found out my son has been skyping with a girl (apparently nice, smart, and sporty) who used to be in his class but moved away. Our computer is in the dining room but he is home alone sometimes and apparently got up after we were asleep once too. He recently started skype chatting with friends and he left a page open which I read. The chat was sexual, though not exclusively, and the implication is that they have video chatted...sexually too, of course I'm not sure of the details but definitely showing each other their bodies and maybe more. ACCCKKKK this is such foreign territory. If he had been making out I would talk about safe sex and birth control and feelings getting out of control but actually this ''sex'' is safe and the likelihood of them seeing each other in person is pretty slim. Still it seems so weird to me. Anyway our plan is to talk about it with him but I feel in such foreign territory. Oh wise parents out there do you have any insights? anonamom
I'd put the kabosh on this immediately!
A friend of mine's son, 20 yrs old, got caught up accidentally in an internet porn ring and was arrested last year in a federal sting operation. He's at home awaiting a felony trial.
This can be very dangerous territory and kids don't necessarily realize what they're getting involved with! anon
Like most kids his age, my 16-year-old son has a Facebook page. When he got the page, I told him that I will spot-check it from time to time. He is socially awkward and I want to check up on him because I worry that he might get into situations that are over his head without realizing it.
In my surveillance, I have seen that he has a pattern of sending personal messages to girls . They start out with ''Hey, how are you?'' ''You're cute'' and other seemingly harmless interchanges. (I should add that these seem to be girls that he doesn't know personally, but friends of friends of friends.) However, the conversations often turn graphic with frank sex talk. The girls respond in kind. Sometimes, they exchange phone numbers and move to texting one another with more graphic sex talk. (I've also taken a look at his text history. It's pretty steamy.)
This bothers me, and part of the problem is that I don't know if it should. On the one hand, these exchanges seem to be entirely consensual. I haven't seen any evidence of stalking behavior on his part. On the other hand, it troubles me that he is relating to girls solely on a sexual level. It feels like a high school version of depersonalized internet sex.
My worst case scenario: he never learns to develop true personal connections with a real live female, and compulsively relies on internet sex for satisfaction. As a female, I worry about these girls who are making themselves vulnerable in this way, even if they seem to be willing. How should his dad and I approach this with him? At Least It's Safe Sex
You should be commended for monitoring your sons account. I would be VERY concerned.
Since your son doesn't know who these ''girls'' are. What you don't know is these girls could be women or men or law enforcement. But then again they might be who they say they are. Unfortunately your son is at an age where he doesn't know and can't tell if he is being scammed. It could also be a classmate who is setting him up for cyberbulling.
While most parents think this will not happen to their child, the facts prove otherwise. Let me share some facts with you. Law enforcement has identified groups or gangs of people who are on the Internet to become friends with minors, they are called groomers. They might work with your son for a couple of years before they make a move. Once they do their goal is to somehow profit from selling the friendship they have established with your child. The groomers then sell the info about your son to another group who might try to use your son as a john, in the porn industry, drugs or use him in other ways. While you might not think there is much profit to be made, FBI says this it's a $4-6 billion dollar industry in the US. Drug traffickers are realizing they can make just as much money selling/trafficking info about your son as they can selling drugs. But risks are much minimal; cases are hard to prove and sentences are minimal compared to 20 years to life for a drugs conviction.
On the flip side law enforcement uses FaceBook to set up meetings with under age girls. The girl turns out to be law enforcement and if you naive son bring what the girl asks (usually includes condoms) he's looking at 4 years in prison (not jail) and being labeled as a sex offender for the rest of his life. There are currently several moms' sons serving time in CA prisons for this and the DA and police are more then happy to get the conviction.
Or maybe that girl is really a girl and it's harmless, and please let other parents know. It takes a community to raise our kids. Thanks -
Seems like you have laid out the arguments on both sides pretty well. Now you just need to say the same thing to him that you put in your post. You can't control him. Just provide your wisdom and let him make his own choices. Anon
That is a really good question! On the one hand, he isn't technically doing anything ''bad''. The pre-technology equivalent to this would be looking at porn, and flirting in an over-the-top way, neither of which is uncommon in teens. On the other hand, this is a lot more interactive, and it involves acquaintances. It's a lot more explicit than traditional flirting. And it is a lot more public. So, I think there are three aspects you might consider bringing up with him.
First, public vs. private behavior. Is this all going on in the email section of facebook, which we assume is private, or is it showing up on his wall and other peoples' walls? Can anybody who googles his name read what he's written, like his teachers or the neighbors? Does he know what his privacy settings are, and how to change them? (Make sure you know this yourself before you ask!)
Second, we parents need to know about our kids' friends. Teens do friend others on facebook that they don't actually know. Hundreds of them, judging by my kids and their cousins. But still, we parents have the right and the responsibility to be aware of who our kids are friends with, and I think we can extend this to the legions of unknowns they friend on facebook. Your son knows that you have access to his facebook page and his texting, so why not ask a question like ''So, I noticed you have gotten to be pretty good friends with a girl named Nancy. Who is she? How did you meet her? Does she live nearby?'' and other typical nosy parent questions.
Third, you brought up the question about developing real world relationships with girls. I think this is a valid question, and is true for sons who are socially adept and awkward alike. Many parents raise objections to their sons' use of porn on the grounds that it objectifies women and gives boys the wrong idea about the other sex. Also, in my experience, most boys & girls in our area do not really develop relationships until after high school. But they are all thinking about it. There is a chunk of time where they are sexually curious but do not have real world opportunities. In some ways, dirty talk on facebook and via texting seems like a harmless way to fill that void. On the other hand, is it OK if it has no bounds? There has to be a line, and you could also register your opinion that over-the-top flirting does not reflect the way real relationships work. This may be a good opportunity to talk about that. another mom
There really are two questions here. First, why is he communicating with ''girls that he doesn't know personally, but friends of friends of friends?'' He has no idea who these people are. Maybe they are teenage girls. Maybe they are not. There are predators (sexual and otherwise) out there who ''friend'' kids and pose as teenagers, luring kids into awful situations. Believe me; I see them in court. Your son, and everyone, should have a strict rule against ''friending'' anyone they have not personally met before the friending, and know to be who they say they are. No exceptions.
Second, should he be engaging in this explicit sex talk (much less with strangers)? The answer is no; internet or texted sexual chat should be verboten. Some of the reasons are the interpersonal communication reasons you already expressed. But there are other, more practical reasons. People have no control over where communications go in these media. They can be forwarded infinitely, to the humiliation of the authors. How would he feel if his comments were broadcast around school? He should not say anything on Facebook or texting he would be embarrassed to see in the school newspaper. And steamy communications can have dire legal consequences. What if the recipient is not, as represented, a 16-year-old girl, but a 13-year-old? What if she ''sexts'' him a naked picture of herself? Suddenly he is looking at potential legal liability as a possessor of child pornography/sexual predator and lifetime sex offender registration. In short, your worst case scenario is nowhere near bad enough.
Insist that he unfriend everyone he has not personally met, and stop all the sex chat. If he wants to talk sex, he can do it with real friends, in person, which will be a natural brake on anything inappropriate. In criminal court every day
Hi, Please help! My daughter posted herself on Craigslist for erotic services. We saw it accidentally on the computer while she was out of the house. We have not spoken about it to her and are at loss about what to do next. She is only 17 and has been a ''good girl'' and a good student. We do not have a lot of money, tru, but we have always had values. She has been saying lately how she wants to have an expensive car and designer clothes and move out soon. She works part time in a restaurant and now this! Any ideas are welcome. Thank you. Martha
I would approach your daughter and ask her about it. You don't have to panic or freak out, just tell her what you noticed and ask her about it. It might be a (foolish) way to explore her sexuality and independence. It might be a sign of emotional problems. It might be a joke or dare. Let her tell you what it means. Craigslist is an awesome onine community, but there are a lot of weirdos out there, and they all have access to the internet, and just like myspace or facebook or match.com....you can pretend to be anyone. Good luck.
I want to first applaud you for writing to UCB Parents of Teens and reaching out for some support. It really shows how much you care about your daughter and your deep wish to handle this in the best way.
Unfortunately, this situation is something I'm seeing more and more of in my private practice: young girls who have decided that its ''not a big deal'' to trade sexual activity/performance for money, clothes or some kind of remuneration. This is connected to what many are beginning to understand as the rise ''raunch culture,'' where performative sexuality (sex like the porn stars seem to have) has become the ideal against which sexual ''openness,'' and ''sexiness'' itself is being measured.
It is also, more unfortunately, connected to the intense status anxiety that high school students feel. It's not unusual--especially when teens have such frequent and intense exposure to the material ''goodies'' of celebrity culture--for teen girls to think that trading sexual services for material goods is just another way to get them the status symbols they desire.
There are some very complicated issues involved here. The persons or people your daughter may come into contact with may be committing a crime by being involved with her. It is against the law in California (where the age of consent is 18) to engage in \xc2\x93sexual activity\xc2\x94 with a person under the age of 18. In some cases, the activities or behaviors your daughter chooses may also constitute child abuse or exploitation.
There may be underlying mental health issues that are driving your daughter's choices to engage in this kind of activity, including depression, anxiety or past negative sexual experiences (willing or unwilling). Being a ''good'' girl and good student doesn't mean that she isn't facing some difficult problems. It would be hard for me to imagine that a 17-year-old would take the chances of posting a listing for erotic services on Craigslist and having that represent a healthy, fully consensual choice.
If you confront your daughter, she is likely to initially either feel very embarassed/ashamed or defensive about having her privacy violated. Please remember that you'll likely need to have many ongoing conversations with her about this situation. If you can talk to friends and family about this, please do so, especially if it helps you listen to her and stay calm, amidst a pretty upsetting situation. I would also suggest you be willing and ready to support her entry into counseling to talk about her choices and risky sexual behavior. My sense is that this is not normal sexual exploration. It's a complex response to a number of factors, including important social issues around status anxiety, that might benefit from the intervention of a therapist.
To understand more fully some of these issues, please consider reading Ariel Levy's ''Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture''. You'll also find more resources on my website at www.practicalhelpforparents.com.
Michael Y. Simon, MFT
I agree with the comments expressed by the respondents. You need to sit down and talk with her about the basis for this. And there's something else -in addition to the unseemly physical and health risks your daughter is undertaking, she can also be subject to arrest and prosecution. The police are very aware of the erotic services postings on Craigslist and have used them to set up sting operations. On top of everything else your daughter is risking, she could find herself locked up in Juvenile Hall with some really tough cases, and you will all get first-hand experience with the criminal justice system. I don't know if you've done this in the past, but family therapy might be helpful. anonymous