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The other day I wrote about how much I love my teenage daughter.
This isn’t anything new. I’ve been writing on this very site about how much I love her since she was six months old.
Posting pictures on Facebook, talking about our life, and just doing what pretty much every other parent does.
She’s a little more on the Internet than the others just because I spend so much time here. She’s even got her own YouTube channel and stuff. She’s busy. She wants to sing on broadway when she grows up so I spend a lot of time sitting in my car outside rehearsals these days.
But about a year ago, people started messaging me when I posted pictures of her to Instagram, Facebook, etc. Becuase they don’t follow everything I do over there, they’d just see a picture and assume she was me. Posting selfies, as teenagers often do.
It started with a man old enough to be my dad. He messaged me to tell me I should smile more in my photos. At first, I was just going to send him the usual “Don’t tell women to smile” that I usually send to people that like to tell me how to feel in my pictures, but then something unexpected happened…
He sent me a screenshot of the photo I’d just posted of my daughter and said, “See. That’s such a pretty girl.”
I deleted the photo, banned, reported and blocked him immediately, and ran into the living room to yell about creepers to my husband.
But I didn’t think too much about it. Creepers are on the internet, and it was just one person, after all.
Then, a few weeks went by and I posted another picture. And another message popped up in my inbox.
Same thing, ban, block, etc. Disgusting.
And as time went by, I started to see a pattern. This happens EVERY SINGLE TIME I POST A PICTURE OF HER. Every single time, an older man assumes I am “her” and sends me a message.
So, I did what any mom would do, I asked her about it. “Yup. It happens to all of us. Even if we are private on Instagram, sometimes they still get through.”
I resisted my urge not to vomit. Then I asked, “What do you guys do about it?”
We report them to instagram, and then we ban and block. It’s super gross, but most of the time they don’t start with something nasty.
JAW ON FLOOR.
Why is this happening? Because people are creepy.
There’s a whole part of me that wanted to take away her phone and all her social media accounts forever. To lock her up in a bubble and to never let her out of my house again.
But that is unrealistic. And more importantly, it won’t work. Telling your kids they can’t have Instagram only makes them want it more. Telling them not to post pictures of themselves will make them post them on a fake account.
Trust me, every single friend of my daughter’s who isn’t allowed to have social media has a secret account that their parents don’t know about. Telling them they can’t get on Instagram is about as effective as only teaching abstinence.
What can we do to protect our daughters on Instagram?
Make sure we have ALL the passwords to our kid’s social media accounts. And use them. It’s super important that we actually log in and check what is happening in their private messages. If you’re uncomfortable doing it because of privacy issues, then sit down with them and go through it.
Talk to your kids. Talk to them a LOT. Make sure they know that they can come to you with anything that happens on social media. That you won’t yell at them or freak out (which is a lot easier said than done, I get that.)
Watch everyone’s kids, not just your own. This is HUGE. I follow every one of my daughter’s friends on social media. Why? Because I might see something that other parents miss. This is a pact I made with several other mom friends– we all follow our kids, and they understand that we are there to protect them, not be in the way.
Yes, creepers are a real thing, and the best thing we can do with our kids is KNOW they exist and teach them how to get rid of them as fast as possible. Keep their social media accounts private, and make sure they aren’t posting their address, etc. on them.
And until we get rid of all the creepers in the world, be vigilant. Because that’s all we’ve got.