Dear Savvy Auntie,

My 15 year old niece is posting very inappropriate pictures and comments on Facebook. I've called her on it a few times, but she hasn't stopped. I haven't said anything to her parents -- I don't have a close relationship with either parent and am concerned anything I say to them would be perceived as me accusing the of bad parenting. What should I do?

Facebook Auntie

Dear Facebook Auntie,

You are a very savvy auntie to have concerns! The statistics reflect that violence against females has declined dramatically, except in the 15-24 year old age range where it has increased dramatically. The exhibitionistic behavior your niece is displaying is one of the main causes! I therefore think it is necessary you warn her that you will speak to her parents in a week if she doesn’t stop immediately and remove her postings and photos. Keep in mind that this behavior is often a symptom of distress, insecurity, drug/alcohol use, anxiety, and anger. So, your closeness to her should be directed to exploring what she is really experiencing and feeling.

If you do speak to her parents try exploring what methods, if any, they are utilizing to patrol her web usage. The danger is not only what she is posting but who is communicating to her. My granddaughter, then 7 years old, joined a children’s game club. When my son checked it, after four hours, there were twenty communications from obvious pornographic women wanting to be “friends”. He installed “gates” and checks it every night.

I believe it is worth the risk of her parents being insulted or offended if you diplomatically speak to them…you may prevent a very serious problem.

Best of luck,

Natalie Robinson Garfield

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