Are you a parent of a teen that is using a dating app?
In most cases, online dating is unsafe for teens. This is because, as you probably already know, there are a lot of predators online who try to prey on teens.
That cute 16-year-old lacrosse player who lives a few hours away that your daughter is talking to online could really be a 40-year-old dude who lives with his parents a few blocks away from you. It’s easy to stretch the truth online, and people do it all the time.
Although most reputable dating sites don’t allow teens to sign up for their services, there are a few online dating sites and dating chat rooms geared toward teens. If you discover that your teen has starting dating someone online, you should definitely be concerned. Here are a few tips to help you deal with this type of situation:
1. Have a serious discussion about the risks
Your teen probably already knows that meeting people online isn’t the safest choice. However, he or she decided to do it anyway. As a parent, it’s your job to communicate the risks of online dating to your son or daughter without seeming too much like an overprotective, overbearing parent. So, sit down together and have an adult conversation about online predators.
Try not to get angry with your teen, and calmly ask your teen to stop visiting online dating sites. This discussion may not be enough to convince your teen to stop meeting people online. It will, however, get your teen to start thinking more about how dangerous online dating can be.
2. Monitor your teen’s online behavior
Install some software on your computer that will let you monitor your teen’s online habits. You can choose whether or not you let your teen know you’re doing this. After the software is installed, check to see what sites your teen is visiting regularly, but avoid invading your child’s privacy too much.
There’s no need to go through all of his or her SMS messages, unless there’s good reason to suspect something is up. If you notice your teen is regularly visiting sites that appear to be online dating sites, you may want to get some software to block those sites from your family computer.
3. Do a background check on online suitors
If your teen still finds a way to online date, despite your efforts to curtail this activity, find out who he or she is talking to. Find out the name of the person, where he or she lives, and where he or she supposedly goes to school. Then conduct a background check on the online suitor to see if he or she is telling the truth to your teen.
Call the school the suitor allegedly attends and try to see if he or she is actually enrolled there. Try to find the phone number of the parents of the suitor, call them, and let them know their child is dating your child.
If it turns out that the person your teen is communicating with is actually another, normal teen, you’ll have to decide whether or not you’ll allow your child to continue communicating with him or her. If you discover that the online dater isn’t actually a teen, it’s best to report him or her to the authorities.
Online dating is a real risk in your teen’s life. So, make sure you have an open, honest conversation about meeting people online with your son or daughter. And keep tabs on your child’s online behavior. It’s critical that you take the necessary steps to protect your teen from online predators.