I recently checked my 14 year old daughter's facebook profile and discovered some worrisome entries. She listed her interest as "men" and added that we is looking for dating and relationship. I immediately got upset and ask her to remove those but she became upset at me because she states that she is the only one at her school who doesn't have a boyfriend. Am I over-reacting by telling she can't have a boyfriend until she's seventeen?
First, good for you for checking your daughter's facebook!
I think you're right to ask her to remove her 'interest' as 'men'--since she's only fourteen. I also think it's fine for you to have asked her to remove her comment that she is looking for dating and a relationship: this is just asking for trouble, since it is not just the immediate group of kids in her school that read her facebook.
Next, no matter what she says, I am absolutely sure she is definitely not the only one in her school who doesn't have a boyfriend--although she might feel that way if she is the only one in her small circle of friends that doesn't.
OK, now not your question...you might be overreacting a bit by telling her she can't have a boyfriend until she is seventeen. To begin, no matter what you say, if she wants a boyfriend, she'll find one--even if she has to sneak it behind your back. So, setting such a hard 'rule' is just asking her to break it and to lie to you. Instead, you're better off opening lines of communication between you and her by trying the following four tips:
1. keep checking her facebook. If you see things you don't like, ask her nicely to take them down, explaining to her that she is making herself vulnerable to some not so nice, even dangerous people by being so vulnerable.
2. Help her understand that she isn't the only one who doesn't have a boyfriend.
3. If this is really important to her, help her figure out ways to communicate with boys in her school and other parts of her real (not online) world, that may make it easier for her to meet someone really great.
4. Stay on top of where she is going and who she is with. If she is that desperate to meet a boy, she may be at risk for meeting and spending time with boys in situations that aren't safe for her. Some common examples of this include: a stranger she has just met at a party; a boy she meets online and then goes to meet somewhere live. Be aware of her cell phone and Internet use and make sure you pick her up and drop her off everywhere. Only allow sleepovers at homes with supervision you trust completely.
Dr. Susan Bartell
JustAsk Expert www.drsusanbartell.com
NEW book! "The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask"
Unless you are friends with her on the site, I, personally, do NOT think it is OK that you are checking up on her via Facebook. I understand that the idea of a daughter putting her name and face out there on the big, huge, world wide web can be scary to a parent, but I also think that teens deserve at least a little bit of privacy.
On Facebook, users are asked to choose what sex they are "interested in" from a drop-down menu with a pre-written set of answers. They may either answer "Men", "Women", or choose both. Her stating that she is interested in "men" does not necessarily mean that she is interested in grown-up men, it is simply the closest available option the site offers, since there are no choices for "boys" or "girls". Users can also choose from a list of relationships they are looking for, including "dating" and "in a relationship", if they wish. I wouldn't be too worried about these things; most other users understand that her information was limited to the options the site offers!
However, I think the bigger issue here is that she feels she is ready to 'date' and be 'in a relationship', but these words can mean different things as we get older. When you're her age, being 'in a relationship' with someone usually means nothing more than being matched up with a person in your group of friends, and maybe going to the movies or a school dance together, possibly a first kiss. But when you're an adult, being in a relationship means living together, considering marriage and a family, and a whole host of complex emotions! I would suggest talking to her and telling her that by putting these things on her profile, she may receive unwanted attention from older boys who have different ideas about what 'dating' means, and discuss with her how to handle that situation if it ever occurs. Keep in mind that this is a problem parents have been dealing with since long before social networking, and long before the Internet. This was a talk you two would need to have sooner or later.
In the future, talk to her about what's going on in her life instead of snooping! She would get in trouble for doing something behind your back instead of talking to you about it first, right? It goes both ways. To her, it's a huge violation of her trust to see her mother and role model resort to sneaking around behind her back instead of simply talking to her. To her, it probably seems like you're not that interested in getting to know her, and would rather make judgments based on some words on a screen rather than talk to her in person. In her world, the only other people likely to 'spy' on her via Facebook are bullies looking for information to use against her. Give her some space, show that you're genuinely interested in her well-being and that you care by talking to her and giving her advice (whether she wants to hear it or not!), and she will be much more likely to come to you with personal problems in the future.
I think your overreacting just a little bit. I had my first boyfriend at thirteen, but I had to hide it because my parents didn't let me date until 9th grade. If you set strict rules, she won't follow them. She's just going to go behind your back like I did to my parents. At 13 dating for me was saying that we're going out, chatting on Facebook, texting, and hanging out in school. At 14 I was still dating the same guy and we shared our first kiss, on the cheek. What I'm trying to say is that your daughter doesn't have anything "bad" like sex, in her mind. And trust me, boys that age don't either! So I would let your daughter date. It won't be a problem. Trust me! I've been there!