Dear Amy: Recently, I noticed that the 13-year-old daughter of some close friends has been posting sexually provocative photos of herself on Instagram. This is a public account, and strange men make sexual comments on her posts and she responds with lewd remarks.
I find it alarming, so I notified the girl's mother (who's not on social media) and she thanked me for speaking up, but she also gave an excuse along the lines of "she's just precocious."
Meanwhile, the content continues. I think this is dangerous for the girl, but I also feel like it's in the parents' hands now. Is it right to continue to stay silent once I've said my piece?
Amy says: The feelings underlying this behavior are developmentally appropriate for a girl her age. But being sexually precocious at 13 is different now than it was when her parents were her age.
Teens are no longer only flirting with other eighth-graders at the food court (or sexually acting out behind the bleachers). When this girl posts these provocative photos online, they can be widely shared among a network of strangers, and the photos could be used to bully or exploit her — now or later. When she responds to strangers using provocative sexual language, she's not making prank phone calls and hanging up — these people could find and exploit her (in real life).
You describe this girl's parents as close friends. You don't say whether you've done this, but you might want to take some screenshots of the girl's postings and show these to the parents, who if they aren't on social media may not understand the extent of the behavior — and the risk.
I know this makes you seem like a busybody, but when people post publicly, they invite others to have a point of view about what they are doing.
You should not harshly judge the girl's postings (she is acting out and is too young to comprehend the risk), but your alarm is real. Reach out to her privately to convey calmly and without judgment: "I'm worried about some of your photos and the responses on Insta. It's scary to see strange guys contacting you. I hope you'll be more careful. I'm here if you want to talk."
She will instantly block you and set her settings to "private," so gather whatever evidence beforehand. After these efforts, let her folks deal with their daughter.
You answered: "I hope you warn your spouse."
Be careful with that razor, lady! You are sharp.
Amy says: Perhaps I should arm my readers with a styptic pencil.
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