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When your child’s friend posts something inappropriate online

If you’ve been in the position where you’ve found that your child’s friend has posted inappropriate content about herself online, know that it’s your obligation and responsibility to tell that child’s parent what’s going on. Be prepared, however, for the fact that the news may not be welcomed and you may receive a negative response.

Contributed by Mary Kay Hoal

It can be very overwhelming for a parent to learn of their child’s true online activities. Most parents immediately take a defensive stance when they first see what their child is posting online, particularly when that parent hasn’t been involved in monitoring their child’s online or cell phone activities — or maybe they have but only at a surface level.

Why you should talk to the parents

Know, however, that it is for the greater good of that child that you let the parents know what’s going on. Your actions will potentially help the family and the child bypass the potential consequences due to what she posts. Alerting the parents can help that child avoid:

  1. Being expelled from school or a sports team.
  2. Ruining her reputation.
  3. Missing out on scholarship, college or job opportunity.
  4. Not passing a social media background check, which the Federal Trade Commission has been made legal to do. A social media background check allows colleges, universities and businesses to research up to seven years of a person’s online content. So, what a child posts at age 10 or 17 and any age in between really does matter. When it’s all said and done, what a child is posting today can affect her future in a few short years.

How to talk to the parents

When you’re ready to talk to the child’s parent, consider the following:

    1. Talk face to face.
    2. Relate to the parent. Let them know that you understand that all kids at some point tend to make mistakes online, and their child isn’t alone in this situation.
    3. If possible, bring a copy of what’s been posted. It takes the “my child would never” dynamic out of the equation if you’re able to show specific examples.
    4. Then you can share with them some of the resources you use to keep up with and monitor your own child’s activities so that these types of situations can be avoided.
    5. Finally, shake their hand, or extend another warm gesture along with a smile and remind them that you, too, are a parent and you’d appreciate them doing the same for you since, at the end of the day, you both care about your children’s well-being.

Mary Kay HoalMary Kay Hoal is a nationally recognized expert on children’s social media and online safety. She is the founder and president of Yoursphere Media Inc., which focuses on the family and publishes the kids’ social network — sign your kids up today! Mary Kay also offers parents Internet-safety information at She has been profiled on CNN, BBC, E!, Fox & Friends, TIME, Lifetime TV and many others. Mary Kay is a contributor to ABC’s 20/20 as their family internet-safety expert. For more information visit

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