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Has your child used online dating services?

Has your child used online dating services?

Meeting and chatting to others online is normal for the majority of teenagers, but using online dating services may put them at risk.

Parents text content

Understanding why

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.  

Talking to your child

If you find out that your child has been using online dating services, remain calm and try not to get angry with them.

It is important to discuss their use of dating sites with them to ensure they aren’t exposing themselves to harm, and to give you an opportunity to help them learn some important messages.

Tips 

  • Offer support. Tell your child that they can always speak to you if they have questions or if anybody talks to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Explore why they are using the sites. Discuss reasons why people use online dating services. Just like social networking, many people use them as a way to simply meet new people. Discuss all of the additional opportunities young people have to meet other people their own age through school, sports and youth clubs etc.
  • Spot the signs. Tell them about the warning signs that someone might 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.
  • Remain positive. Make sure they know how to keep themselves safe when chatting online, such as being careful what they share with others.  This includes personal information like photos and contact details. Explain that you never think it’s a good idea for them to meet up with anybody they meet online without telling you first and taking precautionary measures, such as only meeting and staying in a public place.
  • Signpost to more support. They can find out more here