The ever-growing popularity of online communities like MySpace and Facebook are raising concerns and eyebrows of parents everywhere, like a California couple whose teenage daughter developed a relationship online with a much older man.
When Kristen’s mother discovered that she had been talking romantically with a man on MySpace, she confiscated her computer and denied her internet privileges, hoping their relationship would end. However, Kristen continued to speak with him using computers outside of her home.
The romance escalated to secret meetings for sex before it finally ended. The broken-hearted teen slipped into depression. Drawing further away from friends and family, Kristen committed suicide.1
1.New studies have linked teen suicide with dating violence.2 The danger is real. With so many youth communicating in ways their parents never did, it is difficult for parents to moderate, let alone intervene in, their teens’ online interactions. Below are some tips to help you communicate with your hi-tech teen:
- Talk to your teen about what type of information they are sharing online. Ask them to make their profile "private" so only approved people can see it.
- Remember that most communication on sites like MySpace and Facebook is perfectly harmless. In fact, teens can learn important information about building healthy relationships online. Try not to demonize these sites so your teen will feel comfortable talking to you about what is happening online.
- Ask what your teen would do if communication between online friends became uncomfortable. Encourage them to report inappropriate behavior to the website or a trusted adult.
- Talk to your teens about how much communication is too much. Even with all these modes of communication at their fingertips, they should not feel like their partner is watching their every move or constantly checking in on them.
If you suspect your teen is involved in an unhealthy relationship online, talk to them about it. One of the best ways to maintain awareness about your teenagers’ activities is by keeping the lines of communication open. You can also visit and encourage your teen to visit http://www.thesafespace.org for more information.
-Published on June 22, 2007