The help desk: my daughter’s secret life


Q. My 14-year-old daughter recently left her Facebook page open and I had a look at her messages. I'm still in shock. My sweet and conscientious daughter and her friends – boys and girls – were talking about blow jobs, hand jobs, and using – what can I say that you can put in a newspaper? – porn-type words for body parts and sex acts. They also talked about "Frape" – is that Facebook rape?

There was no indication they'd actually done the things, though I'm not sure. I'm pretty unshockable, but I've raised my daughter with feminist values and I hate the way girls seem to be pressured into pleasuring boys at such a young age. I don't know what depresses me more – discovering this side to my daughter, or the fact that teenage culture has become so pornified since my own youth. I don't want to raise it with her as this would prevent future spying and I think I need to keep an eye on things now.

A. The first thing to say is that I don't think spying on your children is ever a good idea, unless it's a life-or-death matter. Think back to your own teens and how you'd have felt if your mother had trespassed into your world and viewed the version of yourself you shared only with your friends. I can't think of any parent who has ever learnt anything useful or edifying, but I know several like you who have been alarmed at what they saw.

If you need to know something, the best way will always be to ask. That's not easy, but then, if you feel you can't ask, then maybe it's not something you need to know that badly. You will never fully understand her world, and that's as it should be. She's growing independent from you and she needs her privacy, just as you need yours.

"Frape" is when someone nicks your account to post or message on your behalf, usually a friend, because they're the ones with the opportunity. Generally, everyone's in on the joke. Thus, if your daughter appeared to post/message that she likes giving blow jobs, for instance, and then afterwards said she'd been fraped, well… you get the picture. Hilarity all round. (This is the other reason not to spy – you can't be sure you have a proper sense of the context.)

But you do, of course, need to keep an eye on things, as she's clearly entering an experimental stage. Make sure you know where she is, and that she is where she says she is, and that she understands all about contraceptives and STDs. Try to keep communications with her as open as you can.

If she's the good kid you say she is then this doesn't change anything. It says much more about the world we live in than it does about her as a person – and that, I'll grant you, is pretty depressing. Goodness knows how the pleasuring of boys became such a sought-after notch on a girl's bedpost.

The best thing to do is what you're doing, or what you were doing before having a snoop: sharing your values, setting high standards for both morals and dignity – and watching her like a hawk.

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Have a dilemma? email your predicament, no matter how big or small, to Louisa at thehelpdesk@

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