Grounded Teen Uses Facebook to Protest Punishment

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True


A social media-savvy teen turned to Facebook when her parents grounded her for five weeks and is using the popular Web site in an attempt to convince her parents that her punishment is unjust.

Tess Chapin, a 15-year-old from Sunnyside, Queens in New York, founded the Facebook Group "1000 to get tess ungrounded." And, according to a story in The New York Times, the teen's plea for fans resonated not only with her peers, but with moms and dads, too, who have posted on the group's wall about their own parenting philosophies.

Susan Dominus, the "Big City" columnist who wrote about Tess and her Facebook crusade, tells ParentDish in an e-mail that the range of conversation on Tess' wall is fascinating.

"On the one hand, it felt like a lot of judgmental adults had kind of hijacked the page, wagging their fingers at Tess to an extent beyond what even her own parents felt necessary," Dominus writes. "On the other hand ... in what other circumstance can young people and adults engage in such a prolonged, raucous debate?"
Tess has managed to attract more than 1,700 fans to her group -- which she filed under "Advocacy Groups" -- and many of them are parents. She created it with the hope that a clamor of pleas from her peers would force a peaceful coup d'etat and cause her parents to revoke her punishment, which she earned for being at a drinking party and missing her 11:30 p.m. curfew by an hour.

While it was a first offense, Tess' parents took it very seriously. Her dad, according to Dominus' column, wanted to give her a three-month sentence; Mom Jennifer Iselin Chapin wanted a month. The two compromised and settled on five weeks of no parties, sleepovers, Sweet 16 celebrations or hanging with a buddy.

Dominus says she believes Tess reached out on Facebook not to ensure her punishment was overturned, but because she "simply wanted to do something."

"I don't think that Tess actually thought her Facebook group would get her amnesty -- I would say that she simply wanted to do something, and this seemed like an option that would get her some social support and give her an outlet," the journalist says. "And even if it didn't change her parents' minds, maybe it would at least make her feel better to have so many voices backing her up when she made her case."

By all accounts, Tess is a good kid and, Dominus adds, "She's a feisty, creative, opinionated, social young woman who nonetheless respects her parents -- if not, she'd simply sneak out of the house, it's certainly been done before."

Tess' Facebook group does open an interesting dialogue about parenting in the social-media age. Would such a cheeky act have gone over with Web 1.0 parents? Dominus says outlets like Facebook and Twitter have changed the playbook in some ways.

"Parents exert so much more control of their children's lives these days, or so the theory of helicopter parenting goes; but maybe that's because they have to relinquish so much more control than previous generations, in terms of the intersection of young people and the public," she says.

Parents, Dominus adds, accept that social media is a force in their childrens' lives.

"In a way, depriving a 15-year-old of Facebook is more of an isolating, grounding punishment than simply keeping her home," she says. "I imagine it must be unnerving for parents not to have any control over the way a young person is representing himself or herself to the public -- not just to other kids, but to any grown up who happens to have access as well."

Tess, meanwhile, remains grounded.

Has social media changed the way you parent?


Related: 10 Reasons Not to Talk About Your Kid on Facebook

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.