Found our daughter’s ‘secret’ Facebook full of lies
Question: Hi Dr. Scott. We were horrified to learn that our daughter has been posting inappropriate and deceitful information on her Facebook account. We thought she was being responsible online because her Facebook had nothing bad on it and we have been “friends” with her since she started her account last year (she is 15-years-old). We decided it would be OK when we heard that several other girls in our church had Facebook accounts. We were nervous about allowing her to have Facebook, but we figured if we were “friends” with her and if she was “friends” with other girls in our church, we would be able to supervise her and see if anything was going wrong. It was working, we thought, because her account looked just fine. But she fooled us pretty good because she had a second, separate account that was completely different from the one we were aware of. We were tipped off by one of her friends who was worried because our daughter had been in touch with older boys on her second account. Needless to say, we confronted her immediately and she fessed up to having the other Facebook. What we found was just so scary. She was posing as an 18-year-old girl. It was very eye-opening. She claimed to be in college, she said her parents had died. She was making contact with several college-age boys. It seemed like she had plans to meet these boys in real life, but we don’t know if she ever really intended to follow through on those plans. She claims she didn’t. This didn’t seem like our daughter. We were so confused. Why would she do this? She’s smart enough to know the danger. What are we missing? How can we trust her again? Thank you, Kim
Answer: I don’t know if any young teenager can be trusted with something like Facebook. It’s a competitive social world out there – different than ever before. Those who aren’t happy with their actual social life can achieve the fame and attention they desire online so much more easily than in real life. Your daughter is likely unhappy or at least dissatisfied with herself and that’s where the solution lies for her.
Young kids should not be allowed to have a Facebook account. Maybe that sounds extreme, but how can any young teenager (e.g. 14-years-old or younger) really be expected to contend with the infinite expanse of the digital world? Social competition is different than in previous generations. There was a time when accolades followed achievement. This is no longer necessary. Now, you can be whatever and whomever you wish if you are savvy enough. Craft a convincing online profile and you can appear athletic, attractive, well-traveled, cool, funny, whatever; regardless of you actual social skills or real-world achievements. And so people compete in these fantasy worlds, trying to look as amazing as possible, and they get loads of attention for it.
As for whom this attention comes from, there is no way of knowing. Were those college-age boys your daughter was talking to or were they 40-year-old child predators? No way of knowing. Anyone can be anything online. If she was my daughter, her Facebook days are over for the foreseeable future.
Your daughter feels insecure, maybe lonely, maybe rejected? She is not confident and hopes that by being someone or something else, she will have the attention and comfort she craves from others. It’s a dangerous ruse that can have the worst unintended consequences imaginable. Your daughter is not unique. She’s not alone. So many adolescents are lost in the digital wilderness. They might be vaguely aware of the dangers, but imagine that they won’t be the victims.
Keep her safe. Keep her away from unsupervised online activities. Remember growing up without cell phones, Facebook, laptops, or internet? We survived just fine. So can she. You won’t be able to keep her from these things forever, nor should you even try. But for now, you can and should monitor her digital activities, limit her access, and create open dialogue about what she’s feeling and going through. Therapy is recommended if she is cannot have faith in her true self without the false attention from others online. Once she can develop positive self-esteem, self-respect, confidence, and healthy social boundaries; she will become stable enough to use the internet responsibly. Dr. Scott
Dr. Scott is Dr. Scott Jakubowski, Ph.D., LMFT: Owner/Operator of Horizons Therapeutic Services. Email questions to email@example.com.