What should I do about adult men contacting my 11 year old granddaughter on Facebook?

Dear Stop It Now!,

My granddaughter is on Facebook. I have no control over that. She's 11 and a good kid, not prone to running around, drugs, or anything like that.  She goes to church, and if anything (in my opinion), may be a little too immersed in that culture. There are men, writing on her wall, who say things like "I'm glad to be your friend." One such person is a guy on Facebook who graduated from high school in 1976 from another state! This may be completely innocent - but what's a 53 year old guy doing being friends with an 11 year old girl? Should I be concerned?

Dear Concerned Grandparent,

Yes, you should be concerned about adults befriending a child on Facebook, especially ones who are strangers to the family and the child. While a child may have adult friends who are trusted family members and friends on her Facebook page, strangers seeking her out should not be permitted to be her friends.

Facebook specific information

Actually, Facebook requires individuals to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account. For directions on how to go about reporting a violation on Facebook, click here: reporting a violation on Facebook and then read the FAQ: How do I report a child under the age of 13? They state that they will then remove the child’s account.

Internet Safety

However, it’s inevitable that these questions of safety online will come up. Take a look at our resources on internet safety to help learn more about how to protect children in their online activities and what some of the risks can be. Additionally, Connect Safely has recently published A Parents' Guide to Facebook and can help adults learn more about setting privacy channels.

What protective adults can do

It is important for adults to supervise online activity and to intervene when concerns are raised and it’s important to have guidelines and rules for children to safely interact on the internet and one of the rules for this family may want to include that all new friendships are given the “parental stamp of approval”.

Many families with teens do put rules around Internet and technology use, such as never giving out personal, identifying information.  It might be effective to put together a contract for Internet use which contains rules that the parent and their child agree upon. Advocates for Youth offers a helpful document:  “My Agreement for Using the Internet” , as well as A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety.
  
Additional Steps

You could also contact the adult men on your granddaughter’s Facebook page and notify them that there are caring, protective adults in your granddaughter’s life and that their relationship with your granddaughter be explained immediately. When adults speak up directly to the adults who raise concerns, then children are kept safer. Adults who are at risk to abuse children will not tend to pursue a child who clearly is cared for, supervised and has adults in her life willing to speak up.

Our Online Help Center offers additional information on internet safety that may be helpful for you and your granddaughter's safety:

It's great that you are monitoring your granddaughter's online activity. This type of adult guidance and supervision is what helps keep children safe from harm.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

Helpful Organizations: 

Comments:

Please share your feedback on this question

Last edited on: August 1st, 2012