It's normal for the majority of teens to meet and chat to others online, but using online dating services can pose a risk to them. Ensure your children know they can get help at any time and find out what you can do to support them.
Concerned about a child/young person?
If you're worried about your child and think something is not quite right, it's best to be on the safe side and find out more.
Teenager's spend most of their days online, and naturally they feel comfortable using the internet to meet other people. Online dating services give young people to opportunity to meet and flirt with people who are outside their social circle - a bit less awks. This opportunity can be exciting to young people, especially at a time where they are exploring and understanding sex and relationships.
Should I be worried about it?
Online dating services are mostly aimed and designed for adults, but there are some that are aimed at teens. Nonetheless, these present risks to young people if they choose to use them. Although young people are exploring dating, these online dating services are not a good idea.
The offenders use the internet to look for young people to target and harm, and online dating sites and apps are used since they know young people use them to look for love, to flirt or to make friends. These offenders may pretend to be the same age or trick them into thinking they're trustworthy.
Many online dating services use location-sharing technology to show people nearby, this does increase the potential for a 'face-to-face' meeting, and although this feature is exciting to young people, they should never be encouraged to meet up with anybody they've only met online.
Another feature of online dating apps and websites is to share photos. The user is required to choose their best photo to 'advertise' themselves to the other users. This can result in young people worrying about their images, how they don't look like the celebs they see on social media and this can all affect their self-esteem and lead them to become critical of the way they look.
Communication with your child is key.If your child tells you that they have been using online dating services it's important to stay calm and try not to get angry at them.
Discuss with your child their use of these dating sites and check that they aren't exposing themselves to harm.
Use this opportunity to go over some important messages.
Our E-Safe Tips.Support them. Make sure your child knows that if anything makes them feel uncomfortable online, that they can talk to you.
Make a list. Make a list of all of the reasons they are using these services. Then discuss alternative services such as meeting new people at youth or sports clubs.
Spot the signs. Inform them of the warning signs that might indicate that someone could be an abuser such as if somebody they meet online is asking them to share nude selfies or encouraging them to take their clothes off on webcam or video messaging. We have a full guide on Online Sexual Abuse on our website.
Keep positive. Make sure they know how to keep safe online and know what, and what not, to share.
It's important to remember, that as a parent, you have not failed. It's hard to notice this sort of thing happening as children can be secretive about what they do online. Just remember to be there to support your child, and not let other emotions such as anger affect the support and advice your child needs.
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