Whilst you may have some worries about your child dating online, there are lots of things you can do to support them to be safer.
Talk together about what a healthy relationship looks like
The qualities of healthy relationships should be the same online as they are in-person. Help your child to think about what qualities are important to them in a relationship and how they can spot them online. Some healthy qualities to share are:
- Respect. They show respect for your feelings and opinions. They don’t put you down or say rude things to you.
- Consent. They don’t put pressure on you to talk about or do sexual things if you don’t want to, including sending nude or semi-nude images. They respect when you say no.
- Allowing independence. They understand that spending time away from one another is healthy and encourage your hobbies and interests.
- Honesty. They don’t lie to you or pretend to be someone online that they are not. You are open with each other whilst keeping some personal things private.
Help them to think critically about who they are talking to
It can be difficult to spot when people are lying or have bad intentions online, especially if attraction or emotions are involved. Help your child to build critical skills by talking to them about how to spot when something isn’t right, such as:
- Are they really a ‘friend of a friend’? It can be easy for someone to pretend to know you from what they see on your account. They might claim to go to the same school or college, or tell you that they know one of your friends. Seeing friends in common can make you feel more at ease adding them as a friend, but that doesn’t mean they actually know your friends in-person. Think before you add them and ask around about this person – have the friends they claim to know ever met them in-person? What do they know about them?
- Do they sound too good to be true? Shared interests or opportunities can often connect us to people online. However, if someone is sharing their luxury lifestyle, claiming to be an expert in an industry, or to have lots of money, it is rarely true. If they want something from you in order to ‘help’ you - for example sending photos for a modelling contract or money to invest in something, this could be a warning sign of grooming or exploitation.
- Have they told you ‘my camera is broken’?. Some people will avoid video chat or talking to you on the phone. This may be because they want to hide how old they are, what sex they are or their appearance. If someone won’t video chat with you or has excuses when you ask to talk, this may indicate that they’re lying about one of these things.
- Do they want you to keep your chat private? If they don’t want your friends or family to know that you are talking, ask yourself why? If they are genuine and have your best interest at heart, they wouldn’t mind people knowing.