Care and Feeding

I Just Learned My Daughter Writes Extremely Creepy Messages Online

She acts like this is universal humor.

A person looks at their phone with a concerned face.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by digitalskillet/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I was recently checking my daughter’s phone and came across some text messages that are deeply disturbing. She appears to be a distributor of chain messages, and incredibly creepy ones at that.

Among the chain mail she has sent are things like “Send this to 15 people in 15 minutes or you’ll be killed,” and “If you don’t send this to 22 people before the end of today, there’ll be a dead clown in your room when you wake up in the night.” And not only has she been sending these messages, she’s the one who’s writing them. I’ve tried to speak to her about this, saying she needs to stop and that these chain messages could very easily creep people out. But she says things like “It’s a joke!” and acts like this is universal humor. Her habit of sending chain messages has gotten to the point where her school is sending letters out reminding children about how chain messages are not OK to send. I’m not sure how to make her stop, or even if I should make her stop. Am I right that it’s not funny, or am I just out of touch?

—Chain Letter Chaos

Dear Chain Letter Chaos,

I’m really not trying to throw any shade here, but I’m baffled by letters like this. You paid for your daughter’s phone, and you’re paying her phone bill, right? Why are you even negotiating with this kid? If this is a problem that’s on her school’s radar, then it’s serious enough to confiscate her phone until she abides by the rules you set forth.

I know that some parents will think my position is harsh, but I tell my kids that nothing belongs to them. Their tablets, phones, laptops, etc. are my property because I’m the adult in the room who bought them. I also tell them that I reserve the right to take these items back if they’re not used responsibly. I believe that sometimes we have to be the bad guy in order to protect our kids from themselves.

I won’t mince words here—chain messages are dumb. Yes, I know kids are a different breed nowadays and maybe I’m an out-of-touch Gen X dad, but I think we can all agree that sending messages that threaten murder aren’t remotely funny. Not to mention, those messages could potentially get her in trouble at school or elsewhere. It’s just not worth it.

The time for asking is over. Demand that she knocks it off, and be prepared to take her phone away indefinitely if she doesn’t.

—Doyin

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