What Parents Need to Know About Teens and Online Dating

Even before the pandemic, much of a teen’s social life took place on the Internet. Chatting with friends (and nemesis) didn’t stop when the last school day bell rang – it was carried over to Snapchat, TikTok, or Instagram throughout the evening, so it’s no surprise that social media addiction only grew during the pandemic. when everything, including the school, became virtual. One result may be that our teens are more likely to meet on the Internet than they used to be.

Benefits of Online Dating for Teens

Our first reaction, when we think of teenagers who meet on the Internet, might be something like, “ Oh my God, no. “We have enough cause for concern to keep our kids online from the predators , cyber bullies and pornography that we can dream of in the days when teens noticed the cafeteria crush. But, according to Dr. Janine Dominguez , clinical psychologist at the Institute of the Child’s Mind, it may be beneficial for teens to strike up relationships online, especially during a pandemic.

“Especially this year, they really didn’t have a lot of opportunities where you could usually meet someone more naturally, like at a party or even in class,” she says. “They had to use apps to just talk to each other.”

But for teens who are struggling with anxiety, in particular, dating online may be the easiest, least stressful way to bond.

“Sometimes being able to meet someone online is a little more comfortable than meeting face to face at first,” says Dominguez. “I think it provides some level of self-exposure that some teens and young adults would otherwise find it difficult to do in a more open, one-on-one social setting.”

The pitfalls of online dating for teens

The main concern for teenagers who meet online is, of course, their safety. There are many adult predators out there looking to trick an unsuspecting, gullible teen into a sexual relationship (or steal his identity). Teens should be aware of this and be careful about any new online relationship, especially if they are using a dating service that is more commonly used by adults. But what can also be problematic is how screen communication can make us more courageous in our words and actions.

“There seems to be a level of anonymity that can lead you to accidentally say things that you wouldn’t otherwise say face to face,” says Dominguez. “This is one thing I would like to warn you a little, that sometimes it might seem a little safer to say something online or present yourself in a way that you would not otherwise do if you were in person.”

This also applies to the exchange of personal photos and confidential information, such as where they live or passwords. Frequent reminders that once they submit sensitive photos or information, they won’t be able to pick it up are important to all teens who use social media, whether they’re dating or not.

Another thing to be aware of, especially now that the world is opening up again, is that online relationships can lead to teenagers becoming more isolated from personal relationships and activities. As Verywell Family points out :

Online romance can limit a teen’s personal social interaction. A teen with an out-of-state boyfriend might decide to give up social activities like dancing or partying because she wants to stay at home to hang out with her boyfriend online. This can have serious consequences for the social life of a teenager.

Therefore, if you notice that your teen is starting to drift away from his “real” friends, it might be time to talk to them about how to achieve a better balance in their social interactions.

How to help teens set the boundaries of online dating

Telling a teenager that he cannot communicate online is unrealistic; they may even strike up romantic relationships via social media without ever intending to dive into the world of online dating. But you can help them approach these interactions in a way that ultimately makes them safer and more comfortable.

Talk to them about what types of boundaries and ground rules make sense for online friendships and romantic relationships. You may not approach this as if you were setting the law (they can probably get around most of the rules you put in anyway), but more as a collaborative decision that together decides which safeguards are important.

Discuss a game plan for a face-to-face meeting with someone they first met online – they will tell you first and the meeting will take place, for example, in a public place near you. This video from Internet Matters provides some additional helpful tips for talking to teens about online relationships and relationships in general:

Finally, Dominguez also offers to talk to the teen about how he presents himself on the Internet, especially with regard to photos and filters. Representing their true self, rather than some ideal version of themselves, is important in helping them feel more comfortable as they eventually transition from networking to personal.

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