A 12-Year-Old Thinks It's Cool To Put Sexy Pictures And Poetry On Her Facebook Page. What Should A Parent Do?

Steven Schlozman, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital

Question: A 12-year-old thinks it's cool to put sexy pictures and poetry on her Facebook page. How should a parent approach this situation?

Answer: This is another question that has to do with the changing world where Internet, cell phone, visual pictures that can be transmitted very, very quickly lead kids who are by nature impulsive, who do things that if they had two or three seconds to think about might not do, but they do them anyhow because it's so compelling, so exciting. In this case, I'd want to find out where the idea came from.

This is a 12-year-old girl so she's behaving in a way that's not developmentally in sync with what you would expect. This is more behavior you would expect somewhat from 16, 17 and 18-year olds. Does she have an older sibling who's helped her to understand that this is something that's possible? Is there a peer group that's engaging in this activity? Does she understand the consequences of this activity? Many children don't see the Internet as having the downstream consequences that we know emerge.

So one thing you might do besides the fact that I think you have to stop it, if it's a 12-year-old but you might sit down with her and explain to her why you're stopping it. "I'm stopping it because this is what can happen. This picture can get into the wrong hands very quickly. Once you put it online, it's out of your control." "The Internet is forever" that's a phrase that's often helpful for kids to hear. Help them to think through how these use these modalities and then try to understand where they've learned to use these modalities in the first place.

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