I am a 27-year-old single woman. Last year, I received a Facebook friend request from a 9th-grader from my church, Jackie. I didn’t know her very well but figured I was Facebook friends with lots of the other teens from the church, so, sure, I would accept her friend request. A day later she sent me a message saying “Hiiiiiii! You’re gorgeous!” I replied, “Well, thank you! Same to you!!” and then left my Facebook. Another day later, she messaged again just to chat about….well, nothing in particular. Our conversation consisted of me asking her questions such as, “What are you up to now that it’s summer?” her replying “Oh, I’m super busy,” but refusing to tell me anything specific. Okay, well, she’s 14, grace on her.
Well, the catch was, I discovered EVERY time I signed into Facebook or Skype (even if it was multiple times a day) she would want to talk for hours about nothing, and would get upset when I tried to politely end the conversation. I gradually stopped responding to her messages because I simply don’t have time to sit at my computer and chat for hours, especially with someone who I see face-to-face every week at church! The funny thing was, if I tried to talk to her at church she would avoid me- the other 9th-grade girls would greet me and chat with me, and she would bolt off and hide. One day when she messaged me I replied asking, “Can I take you out for coffee after school on Friday? I’ll ask your mom if it’s okay, but I’m sure she’ll say yes.” All of a sudden, Jackie claimed to be “superbusy” (superbusy doing what?? I know she isn’t in any clubs or sports…and if she’s so busy, how does she have all this time to sit around on Facebook and Skype?) and said she wouldn’t have time.
However, she continued to bombard me online- I left my computer on and unattended for several minutes and came back to find five or six missed Skype calls from her (Skype?? When we live 15 minutes apart??) and a string of messages saying, “Come talk to me!” “Come on, where are you???” “Don’t do this to me!!” “Why do you hate me? If you liked me you would talk to me!!” At this point, I sent her a gentle message telling her that I simply couldn’t sit at my computer all day and talk to her or anyone else- she was on vacation from school, but I was working and preparing to move overseas. I told her if she wanted to write me an actual letter on Facebook I would happily read it and respond as soon as possible, but that the wording she had just used in her previous messages was accusatory and manipulative. I explained that if she wanted to hang out (I assumed she was looking for a mentoring-relationship from me) face-to-face I would gladly do so, but there was no need to be constantly Facebooking or Skyping when we lived in the same town. She replied that she understood and would try to change her ways- but the bombarding messages continued.
I need to explain at this point that I had plans to go abroad for a year and do missionary work, and her favorite thing to message me about was how “hard” it would be for her when I left. For one, she barely knew me and two, it was hard enough for me to leave my home for a year; I didn’t need to be guilted about it from someone I barely knew. The hardest part before my departure was waiting on my visa, not knowing whether it would be approved, and other church friends would leave messages on my Facebook wall saying, “Praying for patience for you, hope your visa comes in the mail today!” and Jackie would post comments below them saying, “I hope it NEVER comes!!” When my visa finally came she dodged saying goodbye to me my last Sunday at church, but as soon as I was in my host country and had my computer set up, the constant messages continued. Sometimes I would be up until midnight planning for work the next day, and if I forgot to sign out of Skype she would start calling me and get upset when I didn’t answer, even if I messaged her explaining, “It’s midnight here and I’m trying to get to bed; plus my host family is asleep and I’ll wake them up if I start talking.” When my year was up, I had one week at home before moving to another state to begin post-graduate studies. I went to my church on Sunday, of course, and Jackie’s mother saw me and said, “The whole way to church she was talking about how she can’t wait to see you-” but as she was talking Jackie bolted past without acknowledging me. I sent her a message asking if I could take her out to lunch (again, I could ask her mom if it was okay) and she said she was free Tuesday. I had a LOT of people to see and things to get done during my week at home, but I cleared Tuesday afternoon, only to have her message me on Monday night saying her “allergies were superbad” and she couldn’t make it (She doesn’t have life-threatening allergies, just regular sneezing and blowing your nose- I have the same issues but I would never use it as an excuse not to see someone!) Well, glad I kept that time slot free for nothing. Then, the next day, she messages me saying, “I’ve had a really hard day. Can we Skype?” I ignored the message entirely at this point. No, I’m not going to sit around and talk to you online for hours when you refuse to talk to me face-to-face just so you can tell your friends you spent all day Skyping with a 27-year-old!
I’m not sure how to handle this at this point. I know she’s 15, and I don’t know what it’s like to have social media at your fingertips at such a young age. Cell phones were still for emergencies only when I was 15!. But she won’t take my suggestions and I don’t know how to go to her parents with this without sounding like I’m saying, “Tell your kid to stop being so annoying!!” I’m tempted to block her on Facebook and Skype, but I’m not sure what will go down when she finds out I’m still friends with her more internetiquette-trained peers- I’m sure being blocked is a serious slap in the face for a 15-year-old. Is this the norm, now- to want to talk ALL the time online but NEVER face-to-face??? 0612-13
No, this is not normal behavior. This is beyond your sphere of responsibility to deal with and you need to inform the girl’s parents of the odd behavior. It’s almost as if you are an imaginary friend for her. You are fun to play with online but meeting face-to-face in reality is too much. It is time to tell her parents so they can address the issues.
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Admin (#101), there isn’t a line of thinking that missionaries are perverts, there is a line of thinking that being one does not exclude one from being the other. One poster made a statement on how she seems like a good person because she is a missionary while another pointed out that being a missionary does not prevent one from being a predator. Not all missionaries are predators, not all predators are missionaries, but there is the possibility for overlap. I don’t think that happened in this case as the OP just seems a little clueless and naive especially since, with a very vindictive minor, this could go horribly wrong for her.
1. She has been communicating online with a minor for over a year. She accepts chat invites at all hours of the day or night.
2. The chat conversations (by her own admission) include compliments on appearance and requests for information on the minor’s activities.
3. The conversations included invitations to one-on-one meetings.
A professional lawyer-type could probably spin those into sounding even worse. Someone with an agenda can warp her innocent interactions with a minor child into a HUGE mess that can ruin her personal and professional life. If the minor does have a crush, being spurned could push her into wanting “revenge”. The parents could make the OPs life very difficult if they get a biased accounting from their child.
I think the OP should immediately go to her pastor, tell him/her what has been happening, and STOP all interactions with minors online for the foreseeable future. With any luck, it will all blow over but if any of the involved parties want to make a stink, it could go very, very badly for the OP. They have Lifetime movies about this crazy stuff all the time. Your word means nothing against the word of a child, you need to have facts and proof, and in this case, the facts aren’t really in the OPs favor.
Yeah, speaking of drama, I think we’re going a little overboard calling the OP creepy and making melodramatic accusations of of FAILING! this girl.
As the story is presented, there is no formal mentoring relationship here, and nothing to give the impression that Jackie is mentally ill, dangerously or otherwise. OP is not behaving badly to have replied to an acquaintance of any age in a friendly fashion; conversely she does not owe the relationship anything other than continuing friendliness, which she appears to have shown. She’s definitely gone overboard in trying to be accommodating to Jackie, but under the circs that’s understandable too.
The best thing she can do at this point, if Jackie’s showing signs of being truly obsessed (ie. refuses to give up harrassing the OP even after she’s made it clear she’s not interested) is to alert those who *are* responsible for Jackie that there’s a problem. Yes, they might (probably should) have questions for the OP, esp. given Jackie likely has told/will tell them a very different story, and so OP should be well-prepared with the actual details.
Beyond that, again, I’m not seeing where the OP is somehow responsible for the mental health or otherwise of everyone she friends on Facebook. That’s a massively dangerous assumption, right there.
I think the problem is, having worked as a missionary, the OP should have been trained about interactions with different groups of people.
Either way, in a relationship where an adult is friends with a teen, the adult bears the majority of the burden of recognizing when things are crossing into inappropriate territory. It doesn’t really matter that the 14/15 year old initiated it because of the difference levels in maturity. It’s a good thing for any adult to understand and set appropriate barriers with younger people. The older person may not intend to exert influence, but the age difference itself makes it more susceptible. Not to mention, how it looks to third parties – anyone who hears about a 27 year old chatting with a 14 year old for hours is going to be suspicious of the adult, even if the 14 year old initiated the chats. You shouldn’t put yourself in that position.
So the OP did make some mistakes here. It should have been clear much, much earlier that things weren’t right here, and the OP had the burden of cutting this off and honestly never should have engaged in these hours-long online chats in the first place.
>>Beyond that, again, I’m not seeing where the OP is somehow responsible for the mental health or otherwise of everyone she friends on Facebook. That’s a massively dangerous assumption, right there.<<
Yeah, this. I have hundreds of Facebook friends (not bragging; I've just been to/lived in several different places, and participated in several different activities, and it adds up). If I were responsible for ALL of their mental health, then I'd have no time for anything else. In this case, since the OP isn't in an official mentoring relationship with Jackie, I think she can safely block her, because it's not as if Jackie is going to approach her in person. As for the poster upthread who said that adults' relationships with younger people should be limited to official organizations like Scouts/Guides or whatever, I don't really agree with that. I think that anyone can be friends with anyone they want, but they can also end any friendship they're in that isn't working. That may require a different approach depending on several factors, including the person's age, but sometimes it's necessary. I'm not the type to Cut Direct anyone who looks at me sideways, but I have used the "block" feature on Facebook before, on a guy who cheated on a good friend of mine. I wasn't really great friends with him to begin with, so my blocking him was more a sign of solidarity–I let my friend watch while I did it, so she'd know that I didn't support his actions.
At last, a couple of voices of reason. I don’t think this girl is an obsessive stalker, unstable, dangerous or violent. I think she just has trouble with her human interactions, and that’s not an issue that’s specific to teens. She sounds to me like a girl who has lived so much of her life online — for whatever reason — that actual human interaction is too much for her. I’m guessing that OP is not Jackie’s only imaginary friend out there. Is this because of actual psychological issues that Jackie is suffering? Or has she simply had too much free access to social media, and developed a problem that can be solved by more involvement on real-life activities? I don’t know Jackie, and neither does anyone here but the OP.
Also, am I the only one that finds the it a little sad that there seems to be widespread belief that any adult wishing to mentor teens informally is playing with fire, and that once you’re over 18, the only interaction you should have with teens should come with strict supervision, and only after taking the 1000-hour training course “Pedophile paranoia and you: how to have a conversation with a teenager without ruining your reputation and going to jail?” On Hell’s Bells today, there’s a lovely story about a young woman who never forgot her neighbor’s kindness to her when she was a child. If everyone takes the paranoid approach, these stories will sound as antiquated as tales about the horse-and-buggy days.
Start by addressing her firmly, but nicely in person and tell her that you are and adult, and while her attention is nice, it is not appropriate. If the behavior continues, you address her parents in person. If the behavior continues, you block her on all sites. If she finds a way around it, you call the police. I.E. polite spine.
I don’t think the OP officially did anything wrong but I also don’t understand why this couldn’t be nipped in the bud a little sooner and I see what Schnicklefritz is getting at.
You message with her. It starts to get annoying. You tell her to stop. She doesn’t. So stop responding to her messages and chat requests. It isn’t that hard. If her mom goes on about how she misses you etc, tell her mom how weird it was getting. Stop offering to get together with the kid… particularly if she keeps finding excuses. Whether she’s mentally ill or has a crush… not really your problem, OP. But… You’re 27, she’s 15. You have to protect yourself. She’s not your friend, you’re not mentoring her, and you find the relationship unsettling. Cut her off. Because if you don’t, the first thing that will be asked of you is why didn’t you stop skyping, emailing, facebook chatting, and inviting her out?
She’s not your friend. You don’t have to explain to her why you’re refusing to chitchat.
I think this sounds like an appropriate time to call her parents. Jackie seems like she needs something (a mentor, attention, I’m not sure what?) that you don’t seemed to be able or inclined to give to her. And you shouldn’t feel obligated to. Her parents are the ones who need to look after her. They should be made aware that she is trying to chat up adults.
@Shoebox: I’m sorry, but I don’t think it is melodramatic to say the OP has failed Jackie. She said herself that she thought Jackie wanted a mentoring relationship. But she has done nothing at all to help a child who is very obviously confused/in need of help for over a year. Nothing. She hasn’t told anyone, she hasn’t referred Jackie. She’s just let this go on and on and on. I find that impossible to understand, as a parent and as someone who works with children. I find it really weird. I hate to think of the effect it has had on that child over the year as well, which is something the OP gives no sign at all that she has even considered.
I completely disagree that adults and children cannot be friends. Of course they can. I’m not saying that the OP is responsible for everyone’s mental health on Facebook – of course she isn’t.
You can’t treat this as just’one person is stalking another’. Jackie is a child. It’s about a minor and an adult. The OP has crossed so many boundaries and she just doesn’t seem to realize how vulnerable she’s made herself, and how that could have affected Jackie. It’s not that she’s done something terrible, or is evil. But yes, if she’d done this with my daughter, I would really, really want to know why a woman of nearly thirty has let my child stalk her for over a year, not told me and still invited her out to lunch!
I have seen teachers disciplined for this kind of thing. All it takes is Jackie to take it badly, and there it is.
“Also, am I the only one that finds the it a little sad that there seems to be widespread belief that any adult wishing to mentor teens informally is playing with fire, and that once you’re over 18, the only interaction you should have with teens should come with strict supervision, and only after taking the 1000-hour training course “Pedophile paranoia and you: how to have a conversation with a teenager without ruining your reputation and going to jail?”
Unfortuneately the problem is that people really are playing with fire. At the end of the day, I don’t think the OP has done anything wrong… but all it takes is this 15 year old girl getting it into her head to be ticked off and once an accusation is made – the girl will be the one who is immediately believed. The OP will be the one who will have to prove it was all innocent. I’ve seen this happen. Even if the kid is later found to be lying, because the kid IS a kid, they basically get let off the hook. Meanwhile your rep is trashed. It is unfortunate, it really is, but adults who work with kids have to be really careful.
I would talk to the parents and let them know what’s going on here. Then unfriend. It’s a good rule of thumb to have only friends 18 and over on FB. I don’t think kids under 18 should have a FB but that’s just me! I have maybe one friend on FB who is under 18. But I am friends with her mom and dad on FB and in real life too, and I know her parents monitor her account at least once a day (she is 13). And she basically posts quotes about dance and Dance Moms. It can be amusing at times. But I only see posts from her a couple times a week so I know she’s not on it all the time. To me that’s really the way it should be–you have a FB, the parents monitor it and make sure the kid isn’t online all the time.
It sounds like these parents don’t do that. They need to start!!
I don’t think adults can’t mentor kids or be friends with kids BUT you can’t treat those relationships the same as you would with a fellow adult. You have to set appropriate boundaries.
Thank you Library Diva. I was one of the people who immediately thought “crush” upon reading this story (and a crush is not a bad thing, my goodness!) and thought that the OP should back away from this situation. My comment wasn’t published. The kid may or may not be gay but either way the OP needed to extricate herself and alert the parents.
Library Diva, you reminded me that when I was a child I would go door to door (by myself, that’s the way it was done then) to sell things (for Brownies etc) or collect donations (fundraising), what have you. And I remember an older gentleman, must have been late ’50s, probably in his ’60s. He was a lovely man. He would invite me in his house (I believe he was divorced so he lived there alone), have a nice talk, offer me a drink and a cookie and always, always buy/donate to whatever I was selling or collecting donations for. He never did a thing to me, except be very nice and ask about me, school, etc. But now that would be considered inappropriate and very risky.
He also had a swing-set behind his house that the neighbourhood kids all used happily as there weren’t too many of those then. He just liked kids and I think he was lonely and enjoyed kids’ company. He had a daughter around my age (and possibly older kids) he rarely saw and missed her. Maybe I reminded him of her. Don’t know. Either way, today, loud bells would clanging over this.
I think of him being accused of something inappropriate and it breaks my heart. He was a kind person, that’s all. I would hate to think of him being stopped from so nice to kids lest he be accused of inappropriate behaviour.
Had this happen to me too. It’s a generational thing. That’s what 14 year old girls do. Constant, meaningless online banter. I eventually spoke to her mother who explained to her that adults don’t spend their time online like that, and that the adult way to act online is not to badger people.
Sounds like this kid may have some anxiety issues–this definitely isn’t normal. I’m friendly with several teenagers that I figure skate with, and if anything, they tend to ignore the adults online more than stalk them.
Please, OP, talk to her parents. Frame it as you’re concerned about her, that she seems very anxious to talk to you but won’t actually do it. Let them know you are worried that something may be going on with her, and she’s chosen the OP as someone to maybe talk to about it, but is unable to.
1. Op did not know Jackie and yet accepted her FB invite DESPITE the fact she is underaged. OP should have NEVER done that.
2. Don’t invite an underage kid for “coffee” or “lunch”. That’s creepy.
3. OP should have explained that you are busy and can not deal with her 24/7. If she complains, block her . . . when she did that stuff the FIRST TIME.
4. OP should have talked to the mother SOONER. The mother seems to know there is a connection between the OP and Jackie, so the OP should have talked to her about how it was getting out of hand.
5. Op should have quietly confronted the teenager regarding her constant chatting.
Sorry, but the OP has to deal with some blame.
But I ain’t letting Jackie off the hook either. I don’t care if she IS 15 years old.What she is doing is stalking and this needs to be taken care of ASAP. She not only harassed the OP, but she did so knowing and ignoring the fact that the OP was BUSY with her life. She needs to know that hat behavior is UNACCEPTABLE.
Sit down with the parents and tell them that their daughter has been harassing the OP to no end and it has disrupted your work and sleep.
One must always avoid even the /appearance/ of impropriety, even if none exists. I would argue quite strongly that there is a very good chance that this situation could appear to be improper, based only on the responses this story elicited.
Just an update:
Something I should have explained in my original post is that I come from a very close-knit church. If you are an attender at our church and you are a regular facebook user, chances are you are friends with teens from the church, you are friends with those teens’ parents, you are friends with people in their 70’s from the church, and you use facebook to interact with all of them (although it is normally a supplement to our face-to-face relationships, unlike the situation I described in my first post). I am also friends with Jackie’s mom on facebook and she was fully aware that I had interacted with Jackie through facebook; she just wasn’t aware of her daughter’s stalker-ish ways and I wasn’t sure how to bring it up to her!
I did email Jackie’s mother and express my concern, and she emailed me back expressing her gratitude and asking me to join her in praying for wisdom in how to best work through some of Jackie’s issues. One thing that didn’t occur to me as I wrote this original post is that Jackie has told me she is adopted- I don’t know many details, but now I’m under the impression that she was removed from a bad home situation. She is now in the care of two loving parents, but, of course, if she has been abused as a child there will undoubtedly be a long healing process for her. Perhaps this is a symptom of underlying issues from her past. I do hope and pray that she and her parents can work through all of this and she can have a life free of anxiety soon!!
As a NYC teacher, my first instinct upon reading this is that the author needs to stop all interaction with the girl immediately. It’s very unfortunate that we live in a culture where one can be accused of inappropriate behavior so easily, but the fact is that this is our current reality. The girl is at minimum unstable, and a false accusation can ruin the authors life. The author also must report this behavior to the girls parents and her pastor; hopefully she will get the help she needs. Obviously her behavior is not normal. Oh; and block the girl on Facebook. Overly cautious? Better safe than sorry.
Bless you, OP, our seem to be a sincerely kind, generous and tolerant person. The world could use more of those qualities.
That said, it appears as though this young woman is screaming for help, but you are neither inclined nor able to provide whatever it is she is seeking. My advice is to alert her parents and your pastor, then block her from communicating with you on FB & Skype, with prayers that she find peace.. You have every right to completely remove yourself from any further activity.
Wow, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if many of you had any say. I have always been interested in a hobby that tends to mostly have older participants, and one in which my parents have no interest (mom would indulge a bit and drive me to events, but that’s it). Getting a computer in 5th grade opened me up to a world of others who shared my interest. Many of my friends were older women. Some I hand wrote letters to and they would send me little things – fossils they found, photos, nothing expensive. I met several when they visited near my area. These people helped build me, helped foster my interest in a way my parents never could have (and didn’t want to), and made me a happy girl. I now help mentor other young kids who are interested in the hobby. An adult talking to a minor really shouldn’t set off warning bells right away.
I think the op is wrong to call the teenager a stalker, apart from anything else who clears an afternoon to have lunch with their stalker then gets annoyed when they cancel? It sounds to me like the girl maybe looks up to the op, but feels safer at a distance rather than one on one. By inviting her out the OP has encouraged her to think of her as a friend. My suggestion would be to a) talk to the mum as OP has done, b) talk to the girl and ask if everything is OK as she seems to want to talk a lot online, but never in person and c) set some boundries by making times to call or chat.
But the OP is an adult and is not behaving well either, throwing around accusations of stalking to someone she invites for lunch makes her look like a teenage drama queen, or a troublemaker.
I’m a basketball coach and work with young girls, 11-13. I’m a 24-year-old female, so a lot of the girls look up to me and think of me as an older sister. Their parents consider me a part of their extended families, and I cherish those relationships. I think of them as my little sisters and am fiercely protective of them.
My niece is one of the girls I coach, and she spends a lot of time with me – by extension, her friends (my players) spend a lot of time with me as well. I am so ridiculously careful not to have any inappropriate contact, physical or otherwise, with these kids. They all follow me on Instagram – I will follow back (never a bad thing to have another adult looking out for kids’ well-being and internet safety, in my opinion) but will never comment/like anything non-basketball related, initiate a direct message, or tag them in anything on my personal page. I’ve actually stopped letting them follow me and encourage them to all follow my team page instead. A few have my cell number, as I give it to all players – and their parents – in the case that they’re not able to make a practice or stuck without a ride to or from a practice or game. They text sometimes, but I won’t answer them and will have my niece pass along a message instead. I communicate with their parents constantly, I’m never alone with any of them, and I’m certainly not communicating with them outside “normal” hours.
It’s important to me to have these boundaries with the kids not only to preserve my own professionalism and reputation, but to teach the girls that any adult who expresses any kind of personal interest in them beyond the limitations I’ve set – communicates with them without their parents knowing or at all hours of the day/night, spends time alone with them, initiates conversations, etc. – isn’t normal. My number one goal is that all my kids are safe at all times, and unfortunately they need to learn from a very young age what an appropriate child-adult relationship is like and what an inappropriate child-adult relationship is like.
That’s not to say that OP is a predator of any kind – I think she’s just a little clueless. She needs to carry herself in a way that if ANY accusations came against her, there would be no basis for any claims made. While I’m sure she had nothing but friendly intentions, certain aspects of this relationship – communicating at odd hours, making plans to meet, letting the child guilt trip and manipulate her – are HUGE red flags. She needs to speak to the child’s parents IMMEDIATELY with full transparency – give them transcripts of their conversations and explain her concerns. Then she needs to ask the parents how she should proceed – if they would like her to continue to answer the child if she contacts her, what they would like her to say, etc.
Good luck, OP. I hope you’ve learned from this experience and can move forward better equipped to keep our kids safe.