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 that couldn’t be printed in a family newspaper.
I find it alarming, and 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?
Dear Worried: 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.
Thirteen-year-olds are no longer only flirting with other eighth-graders at the food court (or sexually acting out behind the bleachers), but 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 recommendation makes you seem like a busybody, but when people post publicly, they invite others to have — and share — 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, here), but your alarm is real, and so you should also 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.
Dear Amy: I am so tired of staying home. I was happy when my state relaxed some of the COVID-19 mandates, which meant that our church could open up again. However, I am disappointed and angry with my church’s reaction to the remaining mandates.
Ninety-five percent of the congregation do not wear face masks. There is no social distancing. People are sitting close, hugging, and shaking hands.
My spouse and I feel like outcasts. We sit by ourselves in a separate room and watch the service on TV. That’s not “church.”
We have seen negative comments congregants have posted on Facebook, such as, “Wearing a face mask does not help,” “Stop wearing underwear on your face,” and, from our minister, “If I see you wearing a face mask, I’ll laugh at you.”
We are naturally very uncomfortable with such talk and dangerous behavior.
We’re not sure how to deal with all this. I want to report them to protect the innocent kids and those of us who are compliant. What do you think?
— Justified Anger
Dear Justified: You need to find another church. Your pastor’s comments alone are — shameful, to say the least.
Additionally, depending on what denomination you are, you should contact the district or regional governing body of the church to share your concerns. Send a link to the church’s Facebook page (or screengrab these comments), and ask the district to do something about it.
But definitely find another church. Unfortunately, the spiritual toxicity unleashed by some in this congregation will likely outlast the pandemic.
Dear Amy: A reader recently took you to task, insisting that it is a wife’s duty to assume total responsibility for the care of her elderly husband, who has dementia. You had suggested that the adult daughter should be more helpful.
You answered: “I hope you warn your spouse.”
Be careful with that razor, lady! You are sharp.
— A Fan
Dear Fan: Perhaps I should arm my readers with a styptic pencil.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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