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I picked up my 14-year-old daughter's cellphone by mistake and saw a number of messages to her from a "boy" named Michael. He was saying he loved her and that he was disappointed the photo she sent wasn't nude. We've talked about Internet predators and she says she gets it — so how should I handle this? I've been gently asking her about her cyberfriends and she gives me information on everybody except Michael.


Annie Fox, M. Ed. Replied: You need to be totally honest with your daughter and tell her what you know. Then ask her the hard questions that you need answers to. Who is this boy? How long has she been communicating with him? And why in the world would he expect her to be sending him nude photos?! Bottom line, your daughter needs to be completely open with you about the tone and content of their communications. If she balks at this then tell her that it is your job, as her mom, to protect her... That includes the possibility of protecting her from her own poor judgments that might lead to regretful consequences. You've been alerted that some boy has an expectation that she send him inappropriate photos. It's more than likely that he will continue to pressure her to do so. That's where your role as parent and educator comes in. If she shines you and tells you she "gets it" then you need to be honest about where your level of trust for her is when it comes to her cyberfriends. Look. She's 14. By definition, that means that she has an inability to predict the outcome of her choices. You need to be on top of this. If she's unwilling to be transparent in all of her communications... then take away her phone and monitor her myspace page, etc. until she has the maturity to prove herself 100% trustworthy.
Posted On 2008-03-19 02:48:58
Amber Rosenberg Replied: This sounds like a great opportunity to practice powerful non-defensive communication with your daughter. If you start with an "I feel" statement, it makes the conversation about you and not about her. This is an important differentiator because you don't want to make her wrong. In this circumstance, an "I feel" statement might sound something like: "I recently picked up your cell phone by accident and inadvertently saw a message from Michael. I'm sorry - it really was an accident. I feel concerned about what I saw because I love you and I want you to be safe. What are your thoughts, honey? This is best done with a graceful or neutral tone. This will feel uncomfortable at first, but as you practice more and more, it will become make it easier. There is no need to justify, give excuses or over-explain your feelings. Be firm, gracious and direct. When faced with resistance, repeat your statement and question.
Posted On 2008-03-18 20:57:42
Amy and Charles Miron Replied: We believe that honesty is the best life and expecially when dealing with intimate family members. We'd suggest you start your conversation with your daughter by telling her just what you've told us. You picked up her phone by mistake and found an alarming message from "Michael." Then let her know that you have two separate problems. One, that she failed to tell you about Michael when you asked about her cyberfriends. That constitutes a lie by omission. (There are two kinds of lies: one where you give false information and the other is when you omit information intentionally.)We suggest that the consequence of that lie be that you will be asking her for her phone to check on her messages intermittently, since you cannot trust her to be honest verbally. Explain that trust can be reestablished over time with honest and direct communication. The second problem is the content of the message you found. This can be a great opportunity to explore the topic of how do you know when you're in love. You can check our book for details, but in general we'd explain that love takes lots of time, knowledge of self and other...along with a whole host of things that are unlikely without a face to face long term committment. We strongly suggest that you share your values and expectations for your daughter and her behavior, whether dating online or in person.We'd also suggest that you find out as much information about Michael as you can. (Where/how did they meet? How long have they been corresponding? How old is he?) While you may be concerned that Michael is a predator, don't rule out the possibility that he's someone who really likes your daughter and thinks he's in "love." In that case, you might want to explore having him over for a family dinner or outing. We strongly recommend that you also inform your daughter that, as a parent, your job is to keep her safe. Therefore, you will be checking her Facebook or My Space page periodically, and then do that. Everyone makes mistakes. Make sure to end your conversation with the fact that while disappointed in the way she's behaved, you love her and have faith that she'll learn from the mistake and not repeat it.
Posted On 2008-03-16 22:10:37
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