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In a recent study by the Pew Internet Research group, it was found that 57% of teens between the age group of 13-17 years have made a friend in the digital space. And, 8% of these friendships turn into romantic relations, but is it safe for them to date online?
The opportunity to romance online seems appealing, but it has a dark side. Online dating comes with an array of challenges for young people. It is constantly hampering their privacy and self-esteem, and in some cases, it also leads to harassment and abuse, which keeps parents worried, and they have one question in mind: is online dating safe?
In this article, we are going to discuss both the good and bad of online dating and how parents can safeguard their kids. So, let’s begin:
How about Teens’ Experience of Online Dating?
Just like hanging out, even online dating brings a sense of connectedness and excitement among teenagers. It has come as a solace to those who are introverted and feel awkward in real-world conversation. If we look at the wider picture, this is how online dating affects:
Social media is helping kids express their emotions in a better way. The cyber-world offers a chance to approach new people more carefree way. 88% of teens say that they prefer texting over any other mode of communication. There are also other means for those who are not good with words like emojis, videos, GIPHs, and images.
2. Confidence Building
Not just teenagers, even adults feel a little shy when first meeting their love interest. But, with online dating, teens get to know their love interests before actually meeting them. Having known each other virtually eliminates shyness and awkwardness. Research has also shown that teens are less likely to feel alone when interacting with their peers online. That helps in building higher self-esteem in real-world communications.
3. Develop Social Bonds
Online dating has proved helpful for teens who cannot establish strong bonds in school. Teenagers can find like-minded people outside the school boundary. Plus, they do not have to face judgment or criticism related to their personality, race, or sexual preferences. It becomes easier to form a bond, be it a friend or a romantic relationship.
Is Online Dating Safe for Teens?
Online dating can be very beautiful, but it also has a negative side, just like anything else. The person that your teen believes to be their soulmate can be someone taking advantage of them. Online predators are out there waiting to pray for your kid’s innocence. Not just it, experts have also highlighted several other issues like:
Let us tell you there is no such thing as risk-free sexting, especially if you are doing it with someone who you have just met online. Unfortunately, the stats represent that many teenagers prefer sexting in the USA. Have a look:
Some of the major risks of sexting are:
Permanency of the content: Once you have sent the text, it can’t be used even if you want and stays on the web forever.
Blackmail: Online predators can use sexual messages to blackmail you for several favors. Alternatively, they can even post it online or trade it for other sexual images and videos.
Adverse effect on emotional and physical health: The pressure of proving themselves among peers, the danger of identity theft, and predators can be too much for young minds. These unwanted events can adversely affect their mental and physical health.
2. Inappropriate Content
The more your kids venture through online dating, the more they are prone to get exposed to explicit pictures, harassment, and unwelcome advances. Older adults may be comfortable with sexual content, but teenagers are often uncomfortable with dirty texts and images, especially girls. The worst part is that they don’t know how to stop it.
3. Online Reputation
Kids take their online presence very seriously, and to maintain a good reputation, they are ready to go to any extent. The biggest risk here is – they lose themselves in creating this reputation. There is also a case of back-to-back rejection and mismatched profile. The irony is that these rejections and unsuitable profiles result from faulty algorithms and fake profiles. But, kids take the pain to their hearts.
4. Privacy Concerns
Whenever you sign up on a dating website, you have to submit several sensitive information about yourself. In addition, no one knows where these data will end up and how it will be used. Even if teenagers take advantage of the security features, they can come across fake profiles and willingly open up to strangers, giving them access to much personal information.
You may also like this guide about what parents should do for teen sexting.
Can Teens deal with the Risks of Online Dating?
Unfortunately, teenagers have little or no dating experience, plus, they hardly know about the good and bad of the online world. Most of the dating apps are full of fake profiles, and to whom your kids are pouring out their heart can be someone who is just there for fun or a vile person trying to take advantage of them. Teen dating is already emotion-sensitive, and then the fear of predators. It is not possible for kids to fight these issues on their own. Parents need to address the topic of the online relationship as early as possible and work with their teenage kids to create a safer dater experience.
How Can Parents Deal with the Risk of Online Dating?
Parenting teenage kids can be a daunting task. One moment they are all chirpy, and the second moment they are slamming doors. The good news is that there are ways to educate your kids about online dating and manage their emotions.
Here are five tips to help you do the same:
1. Teach your kids to report online bullies
There can be bullies everywhere, whether it’s a dating website, gaming portal, or a general social media platform. Team up with your kids, document the harassment report together, and inform the support about it. Tell your kids that they should immediately discuss it with you if someone makes them uncomfortable.
2. Talk about what’s going on in their lives
As kids grow up, they create a wall around themselves and it’s difficult to know about what’s going on in their life. But, to know whether the day is dating online or whom they are dating, you need to talk to them. Make it clear to them that you are interested in all aspects of their life and listen to what they have to say.
3. Educate that anything shared on the internet is shared forever
Make sure your kids know about the side effects of sharing content online. Tell them that once they upload content online or send someone a video or image, it remains on the net forever. Even if they have kept their profile private, people have a way to save it once they share something.
4. Take help of parental control app
Parental tools and monitoring apps can be a great way to safeguard your kid’s online activities. A very reliable app you can take advantage of is Wondershare FamiSafe.
The app exhibits various features like tracking activity, browser history, explicit content detection, and geofencing. Using the app, you can track:
- Whom are your kids talking to?
- What kind of content are they sharing?
- If there is any monetary transaction included?
- Where are they going?
- Whom are they meeting?
- What type of dating app are they using?
Online dating is here to stay, and in the coming days, kids will be more inclined towards it. The only way to protect them against the dark side is to educate them about it. Furthermore, you can take the help of parental control apps like Wondershare FamiSafe to track all their online activities.