A: Hello Sarah
This can be an understandable concern for parents as their child becomes absorbed in the cyber world, engaging as part of a friendship group and sharing their news and images. For this generation it is purely the way they communicate. I can remember as a teenager coming home and spending hours on the phone each evening talking to friends and having a very exasperated mother not understanding what on earth we found to talk about when I had been with them all day.
My advice would be to talk it over with your daughter – rather than try to control what she is doing (I assume she is using a smartphone), discover and take an interest in her world of communication (the social media sites rather than what she is actually talking about, you don’t want to be accused of spying).
I agree Facebook can be a real worry as it is a ‘walled garden’ and only one you can penetrate if the user gives you permission to do so. This is about educating your daughter on how to stay safe online – no different to the ‘stranger danger’ concept, just a different methodology.
Twitter, however, is transparent and unless she chooses to lock her account – not a practice usually adopted by teenagers – then you can see her activity for yourself. However, these online conversations can be misconstrued as teenagers adopt their own language: since when did the word ‘sick’ become a positive, and ‘shut up’ mean ‘get away’!
It really is better to gain her trust and just show a general interest in what she is doing via a casual mum and daughter chat. I suspect it won’t be deemed as cool for mum to actually take part in any of it, but in my experience as long as the conversation is non-confrontational and more about understanding how these things work, then they are quite happy to share their knowledge.
Do drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to continue the conversation ‘off-line’.