Parenting

Is your child on online dating?

Ambili S Kartha
11 to 16 years

Created by Ambili S Kartha
Updated on Jul 28, 2021

Is your child on online dating
Reviewed by Expert panel

Being a responsible parent is not an easy task. Today, the pandemic makes things more difficult than ever. Today, the biggest challenge faced by many parents is to keep their children safe online. It becomes difficult to use smartphones and other devices. Gone are the days when the home computer was placed in the middle of the living room. 

The unlimited use of smartphones and the proliferation of applications have increased the risk of children being exposed to applications beyond their age, such as Dating applications . It can be tricky to digest and perhaps a bit unnerving when the parent finds their 12 -13-years-old using dating apps.

How may have your child got exposed to online dating

One simple answer is by creating a fake profile. On most free dating sites, it's easy to lie about a person's age. 

Some sites allow their users to sign up with Facebook, which would theoretically verify the age. However, more often this is optional. Besides, you only need to provide birthdays while creating a Facebook account. Therefore, anybody can lie about their age when creating a Facebook profile. This provides underage users access to online dating sites. 

6 Warning signs that indicate your child is on online dating

1. When you flip through your child's phone you start seeing many pictures of people you don't know. 

2. More often the pictures of unfamiliar girls you find on their phone can be provocative, while photos of boys usually show bare chests and six-pack abs. 

3. You may find similar photos collected and stored in a hidden file maybe with a password

4. Your son's or daughter's mobile phone contains multiple text messages (or emails) that contain screen names instead of real names. 

5. When asked whom you are chatting with, your child answers "Nobody". 

6. Look out for these apps on your child's phone or computer. Some of the dating apps you may see on your child's mobile phone or computer are Meetme.com, OkCupid, Spotafriend, Tinder and Mylol.

6 Dangers of your child being exposed to online dating

1. An increased risk of the child interacting with (and manipulating) dangerous people who are posing as teenagers. 

2. Using mobile dating apps with GPS can be easily hacked thereby compromising a user's location. It is quite dangerous for a criminal to understand where to find the child.

3. Some dating apps lack authenticity, adequate data protection, and security standards.

4. Sexual texting can be a problem because photo-sharing dominates the online dating culture. 

5. Online interaction can also create an illusion of intimacy and closeness in children. Researchers call this the hyper-personal effect of online on personal relationships. This is an important risk factor for children who are emotionally immature. This effect of online media can make the child more vulnerable.

6. A child may also be tricked into providing personal data easily. This can not only pave the way for identity theft but also may end up in face-to-face meetings that can be dangerous.

What should you do if you find out that your child is active on online dating

Parenting Expert and Counseling Psychologist Kumkum Jagadish shares the following inputs:

Be aware of how your children are using the internet. Understand from them how aware they are of internet security issues, risks and how to handle them.

 

If you find out that your child has been using online dating services, never lose your control. Getting angry will worsen the issue. Talk to your child calmly and find out how they drew to online dating. Try to figure out the services they're using and how they are using them. Understanding the depth of the issue will help you find the correct solution. 

If you doubt your child is using online dating apps, try naturally bringing up the topic of online dating on a casual talk with your child. You can tell them that you've read something about online dating and naturally seek a general opinion from them. 

Remember when you ask your child something, you should be a good listener. Never interrupt their talk. This will help to understand the depth of their involvement in online dating. When they finish, explain the risks of trusting and meeting strangers. Never forget to emphasize that these services are meant for adults. 

Any kind of child sexual abuse is a criminal offense. Make sure the child knows the meaning of sexual abuse. Tell the child that adults who want to talk about sex even in a funny manner are breaking the law and shouldn't be trusted. 

Teach them how to detect if someone tries to take advantage of them. Tell them the intention of someone asking for a nude selfie or asking them to switch on the webcam is bad.

Kumkum adds, “Ask your child about what are the different ways they use the internet and social media. Ask what the risk factors are and how to handle them. You should talk to your child about the different ways their friends use the internet and social media. What are the risks that their friends face and how are their friends handling it? Use parental locks wherever necessary.”

This will give parents information of the different ways their children use the internet, the information they gather, what their children see as risks and how they are handling it. 

This way you shall be able to gather information and assess your child's knowledge as well as internet and social media usage. Your child will also not feel threatened and will feel like it is a natural conversation without being judged or criticized. Many times children are happy to discuss or coach parents about certain subjects. Therefore it is important for you not to judge or criticize the child during such conversations.

Make it clear that getting tricked is very common on the floor of online dating. A person who claims to be a 16-year-old smart teen can actually be an adult looking to prey on an unsuspecting teenager. Discuss safety issues and create social media policies and online rules for the child.

It is important that you also communicate to the child what your feelings and thoughts are of their child's online activities, the risks and benefits too. Just keep athe communication channel open at all times to help your child.


 

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