As I sat innocently watching Dexter for the 27th time on the weekend, eating Cheese and Bacon balls and scrolling my Facebook feed, something stopped me dead – and it was more shocking than a show about a ‘friendly’ serial-killer.
It was a video story of a teenaged girl lifting her top up – flashing her chest to the camera momentarily – and laughing about it with her friends. The reason I found it so shocking is that I knew the girl. I knew her when she was wearing nappies. When she first learned to ride a bike. When she had a tantrum as a seven-year-old about getting out of the swimming pool, and tried to push her mother in.
Because the 13-year-old was the daughter of one of my closest friends.
She performed a very quick flash, which is why I presume it wasn’t picked up by an online censor. But it was definitely there. And she was clearly affected by alcohol.
My instinct was to press “hide post” and move on. It was something I so did not want to see. And anyway, it was her body and her decision…wasn’t it?
Or did I need to tell her mother – my dear friend?
As I miserably stuffed another delicious cheesy orange ball into my mouth, I realised the answer was yes. For a number of reasons.
Like it or not, social media is everywhere – most of us use it. These days, it’s standard to be friends with the kids of your friends, and as most parents would admit, we’re kind of relieved to have the ‘back up.’ Someone else helping us keep an eye on our loveable tween and teen ratbags. Because it’s not easy. Many parents are navigating parenting of social media kids earlier than ever – and we don’t have generations of previous parents to help inform our decisions. We’ve just got each other.
I also had a quick think about the kind of friend I am. I’m comfortable with the truth, and with being direct. I would tell my friend if I saw her husband snogging another woman (or man) – and I know she would want to know. I certainly would.
I thought, “Well, what am I waiting for – for her to flash her vajayjay?” It was better to nip (ahem) this in the bud.
My other consideration was that the footage involved (fleeting) nudity of a minor. I cringed, thinking of people leering at her. My protective instincts kicked in. But I also didn’t have the right to address this with the child directly… that was her parents’ job.
It wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have with my friend about her daughter. I wasn’t sure if she would be embarrassed for some reason, and instinctively “shoot the messenger”.
But I also knew it wasn’t about me. I could have waited for the video to pop up in my friend’s feed, but who knows how many people might have seen it by then? Not just weirdos on the internet – but her own peers, who could potentially bully her for it.
And so, I reluctantly ate my last cheese and bacon ball, then I reluctantly called my friend.
“There’s something on Astor’s Facebook page that you may want to see.” (Yes, if you’re a Dexter fan, you’ll get that reference.)
Of course, she wasn’t embarrassed, and she was thankful. So it turned out okay.
But just to be sure, so I knew what the consensus was for next time, I put the situation to the excellent minds in Mamamia’s parenting Facebook group, The Motherish, this morning. And luckily for them, everyone agreed with me.
One member said, “Yes, yes and yes! And I would want to know about my kids. It’s up to us as a family to decide if it’s appropriate.” She also noted that, “the concept of risk is very subjective,” which is why it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Kerrin said, “I have told friends when I have seen things which they may just want to be across…. there may be context or anything, but so they are aware and can have any relevant conversations to determine whether there is a greater issue.”
Lib raised a point that we would all be concerned about; “Screenshot and send. But make sure that the parent doesn’t tell the kid who showed her or you’ll get blocked and they’ll have no “spy”.”
Kelly said it would be important to inform, but not judge: “Yep, screenshot and send with upside down smiley ????. I feel like it says “just sayin’.”
The confirmation from parents who had been, or could imagine being, in the same situation was invaluable. It means that I can feel more confident about what to do if I am ever in the situation again. Which is hopefully never, but realistically, could happen again the next time I open Facebook.
Would I much rather have been the drunk girl in the video, than be the adult in the situation? Definitely. Parenting – and adulting – is hard.
The least we can do is have each other’s backs.
Have you ever been in this situation? Tell us in the comments.