Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week … what do you do when you know your kid’s friend is lying to his mom about something important to her? How involved should you get? And what if your own kid is begging you not to tell? Have your own questions? Email email@example.com.
Dear Scary Mommy,
My daughter recently told me that her friend got a TikTok account without telling her mom — who is adamantly against it. If she knew, she would be livid. It’s one of her only rules, and her daughter is breaking it. My daughter is begging me not to tell, because she doesn’t want her friend to think she’s a snitch. Should I say something about it, or just keep quiet and mind my own parenting business?
Social media use is a relatively new “frontier” in parenting. Our parents didn’t have to police our use of Snapchat or TikTok or Instagram, so there’s not a wealth of information from generations before us to draw on here … we’re the first to have to figure this shit out, and it can be so hard.
On one hand, you want to alert your fellow mom to the possibility that her daughter is doing risky things online. On the other, you don’t want to break your own daughter’s trust, since she told you this tidbit in (presumed) confidence.
Some defiant kid behaviors just aren’t that big of a deal. If your daughter’s friend was, say, leaving the house with her winter coat on to appease her parents and then taking it off the minute she was around the corner, it wouldn’t be worth a mention to her parent. But as we know, social media apps like TikTok can open the door to a huge spectrum of nasty threats — ranging from language and content you don’t want your kid to see, to vicious online bullies, to child predators pretending to be someone they’re not.
Her mom banned this social media site for a reason. She fears it would compromise her daughter’s well-being somehow, whether it’s her moral integrity or her actual, physical safety. And a secret is only harmless if it can’t actually harm someone. Unfortunately, in this case, it could. Even if it isn’t likely, and she’s just goofing around on there watching silly G-rated videos and learning dances, the possibility of danger still lurks. And should something happen (heaven forbid!), you wouldn’t want to bear the burden of being the one who didn’t raise the red flag.
As much as it sucks to be in this position, here you are: the one who has to give the mom a heads-up. You don’t have to do it in dramatic fashion; just let her know that she might want to check her daughter’s phone because your “insider info” suggests she may have a TikTok. You may even want to ask that she doesn’t mention that info came from your daughter, which might lessen her fear of being seen as a tattletale.
Speaking of your daughter, what should you do about breaking her trust? You could tell the mom without letting her know you’ve spilled the beans, but if her friend somehow finds out and gets mad, your daughter could be unprepared for the backlash if she didn’t know you told in the first place.
Honesty is probably the best option here; let her know that if a secret can be dangerous, it isn’t one that you can keep. Tell her precisely why it’s dangerous (we can’t reiterate this enough to tweens and teens, after all!), and reassure her that you’re not trying to be a downer and take away everything fun — you just want to make sure she and her friends are safe. Remind her that it’s okay to keep a “good” secret, like what somebody’s getting for their birthday, but that potentially-troubling secrets shouldn’t be kept under wraps. And let her know that she can, and should, always come to you with something like that.
Risky behaviors (and abuse!) thrive in secrecy, and small secrets can lead to bigger ones, which is why this mom deserves to know what her daughter is up to. It’s for her own good, even if she doesn’t see it that way right now.
Have your own question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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