Lane New, a 16-year-old Arkansas boy, convinced a local prosecutor to file misdemeanor harassment charges against his mother Denise for allegedly changing his Facebook password without his permission and posting personal information about him on his Facebook page. Denise explained that she was exercising her parental rights because some of her son’s posting reflected what she believed was reckless behavior, including driving 95 miles-per-hour one night after a fight with a girl. Denise is going to court on May 12. See: “Arkansas Teen Accuses Mom of Facebook Harassment”
As always, there is a story behind this conflict, although the facts are few. Denise went through a divorce five years ago and after she wrestled with mental health problems, Lane moved in with is grandmother with Denise declaring that she could not adequately supervise him at the time.
After reading and being shocked by her son’s Facebook posts, Denise evidently decided to take strong measures by locking him out and impersonating him, including posting some things of her own and conversing with his friends.
Clearly this is a mother and son who suffer from a difficult relationship and little, if any, ability to communicate. But there were many choices available to Denise. When faced with choices, we have an opportunity to pause and consider, not just the short term relief we may feel by venting our own frustration, but the long term effects of our actions in this moment. Upon discovering the disturbing posts, Denise had time to consider her actions. Unfortunately, instead of pausing to allow herself a moment to think strategically, it looks like she reacted emotionally and probably drove a wedge between her son and her that will be very difficult to heal.
In this conflict, Mom’s real interest seems to be the safe care and protection of her son. Her son seems concerned about his privacy, independence, and the respect he wants to be afforded as a young adult. Mediation would help them address these issues, matters the criminal court would consider irrelevant. And it would result in an agreement born from their better understanding each other and from their realization that the others’ motives aren’t as evil as they first feared.
Ironically, Facebook’s slogan, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life” in this case was the opposite. Lane and his mother turned to facebook precisely because they were unable to connect and share with each other. While I believe that Facebook and other social media outlets have many advantages and are excellent communication tools, they are, unfortunately, a poor conflict-resolution forum.