So much of a teenager’s social life happens online and many feel really comfortable using the internet to meet people. The opportunity to meet and flirt with people outside their immediate social circle can be hugely exciting to a young person, particularly at a time where they are exploring their understanding of sex and relationships. It’s also not as awkward to flirt with people online as it is in school corridors!
Should I be worried?
The majority of online dating apps and websites are designed for adults, but even those which are for teens can present risks to young people if they choose to use them. It’s never a good idea for a young person to use online dating services and using them is not a safe way to explore dating.
Men and women who want to harm children do use the internet to look for young people to target, and they use sites and apps where they know young people go to look for love, to flirt or to make friends. They may try to trick a young person into believing that they are trustworthy, that they are a friend or they may even pretend that they are the same age.
Location-sharing technology is also used on many dating apps, which increases the potential for a ‘real-life’ meeting. The ability to make contact with strangers located nearby is exciting, but young people should never be encouraged to meet up with anybody they’ve only ever met online.
Sharing photos is often a big feature of online dating services. This means that users are required to post images in order to ‘advertise’ themselves to other users. This can result in young people obsessing over their images, which in turn can affect their self-esteem and lead them to become over-critical of the way they look.