How to Handle Your Teen Video Chatting

Dear Alison,

The other night I walked into my daughter’s room to find her video chatting with a boy. She was wearing a strapless top and had clothing on the floor around her. She was clearly embarrassed and immediately shut her computer off when I opened the door. She informed me nothing happened and asked me to leave her room. I almost felt like she was relieved when I came in. I do not believe she exposed herself, but I am concerned about what I saw and want to address this with her, however I don’t know how to approach the topic without making her do her typical one word answers and shut down. Can you assist with how I could present the subject?

The first reaction we have when seeing our children in a situation that is cause for concern is to have an emotional response. I would first like to applaud you for taking the time to give yourself space to contemplate how to broach what you saw with your daughter. Your daughter would have most likely been defensive as well in the moment, therefore giving everyone a “time out” is not always a bad idea.

It sounds like what you witnessed was your daughter trying to appease the person on the other end of the chat without compromising her morals. In looking at the facts you presented, she was not exposing herself, but rather trying to please the person with less clothing without actually showing anything. It also seems as though she wasn’t only uncomfortable with you coming in, but also with the situation.

I think the conversation with your daughter should begin by addressing the positive strengths and values you witness in her. Start out discussing that you could tell she was uncomfortable and you are proud of her. This will assist in facilitating her feeling supported instead of judged, thus making her feel more at ease to talk about the event. Comforting our children is never easy, but opening up dialogue expressing your thoughts instead of questions is more inviting. As I have mentioned in previous Q & A’s, keep in mind that kids often have an easier time when they don’t need to make eye contact, so a relaxed setting like the car or while watching TV may be a good place to start the conversation. If she is unwilling do not push the conversation and assure her you are willing to listen when she is ready to talk.

-Alison Hipscher, LCSW