Care and Feeding

My Teen Thinks I’m Overreacting to the Really Stupid Thing She Did

A teenage girl looks at her phone and has an annoyed look on her face.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by ottokalman/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 14-year-old daughter posted on Snapchat a nude photo of two individuals, both young teens, half nude. It was not full-on frontal nudity but a “sideview” that she does not think is inappropriate. I deleted the app off of her phone and told her that we could discuss adding it back once we are closer together on our views of what’s appropriate versus inappropriate for posting on social media. In general, my rules are fairly lax as far as her phone usage, but I do have some basic core rules, including no posting or reposting nudity in any way. My main concern here is children’s photography being posted and then reposted without permission, finding its way into child pornography. I’ve explained to her our state laws as well as the federal offenses she may find herself in if she posts said pictures or shares them without the other person’s permission. She thinks I’m overreacting and ruining her life. I am holding strong on my stance of not letting her back on the app. She broke my trust, what can I do to help her earn it back before I push her to a point where she starts to hide stuff like this from me?

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—Social Media Standoff

Dear Standoff,

You made a lot of great points here about the trouble you and your daughter could find yourselves in if these photos get into the wrong hands. The problem is that many kids her age couldn’t care less about the logic behind posting half-naked photos online, because they want to do whatever it takes to be “cool” and fit in with others.

Of course it’s normal for teenagers to rebel against their parents, but not every 14-year-old girl is posting nudity on social media, so there’s probably something else at play here. What is going on in her life that she believes this is a healthy way to get attention? Is she showing signs of depression? Is she doing well in school? Does she place a high value on receiving attention from boys due to her looks? Does she feel valued generally for things other than her looks? These are just a few questions you should ask, and if you don’t feel comfortable doing it, seek the help of a therapist to do it for you. This is something that needs to be taken very seriously.

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In regard to the phone usage, she should demonstrate to you that she understands the gravity of her actions before you consider letting her online again. Only you can determine what would be satisfactory to you, but I think we all agree that eye-rolling and complaining how you’re ruining her life don’t qualify. You should continue to hold firm even if it takes weeks or months for it to sink in. With the help of a therapist, the lightbulb could come on much faster.

Once her phone privileges are back, you can feel comfortable knowing it’s pretty easy to monitor what she posts on social media as there are apps designed to do just that, like this one. You can be upfront and tell her that you’re going to see everything she posts online through one of those apps, or you can keep that intel to yourself. I wouldn’t judge or fault you either way, but you have every right to do whatever it takes to keep your child—and other children—safe.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I live in Arizona, a state where it may soon become illegal, or at the very least extremely difficult, to have my kids learn about racism from their teachers. My twin daughters are 6 years old with blond hair and blue eyes, but my partner and I make sure we teach them about the importance of being anti-racist. The problem is we don’t feel as if we can do enough if our school system won’t support this type of education. What should we do? My partner thinks we should move to a more progressive state, but all of my family is here and I’m hesitant to leave. I also don’t want my kids to grow up being taught that racism isn’t a big deal. Please help!

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—Fighting Against Racism

Dear Fighting,

This makes my blood boil. It’s not an opinion or a hot take to say that most (if not all) of the top human rights atrocities in American history were committed by white people. Genocide and slavery of people of color are definitely the top two on the list and now some lawmakers want teachers to ignore it—or even worse—offer a “both sides” debate on it? Give me a break.

I get why these politicians are doing this, though. They believe in white supremacy, and it’s not good for “the brand” if kids learn the true history of this country as it was built on racism, hate, dehumanization, and violence against anyone who was not white. Do you know what keeps white supremacy alive? It isn’t the KKK, bigoted police officers, or politicians—it’s good white people who do nothing. Once the kids are educated, they’ll believe, “Wow, that was awful. I’m going to do my part to ensure everyone gets to live in an equitable and safe country.” Guess what happens when a large enough population of white kids grow up to believe the aforementioned statement? White supremacy dies.

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It’s simple: You hate what you fear, and you fear what you don’t understand. If we teach our children to understand that people of color are humans worthy of compassion, respect, and dignity—and that it’s absolutely shameful what people of color have gone through in history and continue to experience today—it would be very difficult for them to hate us. Sorry for the rant, but I believe it is necessary. I don’t think you should move, because quite frankly, you’ll find racism and whitewashed education in even the most progressive areas of the country. Instead, I would focus on supplementing your kids’ knowledge at home. There are countless kid-friendly books and movies that will help your daughters understand how to be anti-racist. You might want to look into an anti-racism workshop for kids like the ones I run. Incredible avenues exist to help facilitate change, if you look for them.

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Don’t run away from the problem. Instead use your voice and privilege to yell from the rooftops that no bill or law can prevent you and your kids from being as anti-racist as possible.

• If you missed Monday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My wife and I are exhausted and out of ideas. We live in an area where schools are still closed (and socialization with peers forbidden) due to the pandemic, so our children (almost 5 and almost 3) have both been home full time for a long, long while. We’re also trying to work from home. I fully admit that I’m not at my best right now, dad-wise. Our older child has developed a couple of quirks that are draining us to the point of breakage. First, she has developed a habit of confessing various (mainly imaginary) sins and misdeeds. Think along the lines of “I think I scratched the wall.” Every minute or so. All day long.

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The second quirk is that she’s now calling us into her room after bedtime. Last night I was in there nine times over two hours. Once because she “scratched her pillow,” once because she needed me to tell her what my favorite flower is, etc. These call-ins are always delivered at high volume, and she will continue until one of us responds. (“Dad! Dad! Daaad!” at a yell.) We’d try to outlast her, but she shares a wall with her brother so that seems like a high-risk play. For illustrative purposes, she has interrupted me over a dozen times while I type this email. It’s death by a thousand cuts. We’re struggling. Any ideas for managing this/helping her manage it herself?

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—Clenched-Jawed Canadian

Dear Clenched,

She’s playing you, my guy. I understand that you’re being driven to the point of insanity, but this is like a game to her. It seems as if she enjoys getting a rise out of you, so the best thing you can do is nothing. I know you said that she’ll continue to scream until one of you checks on her, but that’s when you calmly (without emotion) say that you’re not coming back into her room after you say good night to her the first time. Before you exit the room, you need to tell her to get all of questions asked about flowers, the meaning of life, or whatever else, because once you shut the door, you’re not coming back until the morning.

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It’s similar to when you’re sleep-training a baby. There’s a lot of crying and screaming at first, but if you stay strong and don’t pick up the baby, she’ll fall asleep on her own. The same rule applies here. Once she realizes that she can’t get a rise out of you emotionally or that you won’t come to visit her in her room, she’ll have no choice but to fall asleep. I know your son will also have to deal with this for a night or two, but you all will be better off in the long run because of it.

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The key is the emotion behind it. If you show that you’re exasperated, angry, or frustrated, she will feed on it and continue with her ways. If you are stone-faced and non-plussed, she’ll learn to stop. On the flip side, when she does something good, you need to shower her with praise, affection, and attention so she’ll know that if she wants attention, the best way to get it is by doing the right thing.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter is 4. I noticed that one of her friends at day care, who is also 4, arrives at day care sitting in the front seat of her dad’s car, seemingly without a car seat. It’s possible she’s sitting in a booster, but she’s not a big kid, and I’m pretty sure she’s too small for a booster, and definitely too small for the front seat. But it would be really Karen-y to say something, right? On one hand, there are so many arcane car seat rules that no one ever sits you down and tells you—like who knows the weird rule about not wearing snowsuits in car seats if another parent doesn’t tell you? And it would be so awful if I didn’t say something and she was injured in a car accident. On the other hand, I can’t think of a way to say something that doesn’t sound incredibly presumptuous. The dad is really nice and we say hi and sometimes chat about the weather, but we don’t have a relationship beyond that. If it’s relevant, I’m white and they’re Japanese, so it’s possible there are also cultural issues at play.

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—Car Seat Karen

Dear Car Seat Karen,

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I’m glad you said it instead of me, because this definitely qualifies as Karen-ish behavior. I highly recommend that you pass. It’s presumptuous and you have no relationship with this guy, so you’re going to end up looking like a jerk because you only know a fraction of the whole story. How would you react if a stranger gave you parenting advice? Exactly.

If you have a burning desire to put your cape on and save the day by putting your nose where it doesn’t belong, then be my guest.

The world would be a much better place if people just minded their own business.

—Doyin

More Advice From Slate

I’m a single mother, sole parent to a 6-year-old son. From the time he was 3 months old to 9 months old, I worked 12-hour shifts in a hospital. Next month I will be starting a new job, working 12-hour night shifts in a hospital two hours away from our home. He seems prepared for me not being with him overnight sometimes and not seeing me for a couple days, but he recently asked for a phone of his own so we could exchange messages. My first thought was this was ludicrous—he’s 6! But I think it could be a good way for us to connect while I’m gone. Is this a terrible idea?

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