Teens And Online Relationships
I just posted “Technology and Teens: How Parents Are Failing To Keep Them Safe” as a follow up to the pedophile grooming of parents article as well as to expose the mindset of some teens and adults who see nothing wrong with sexual exploitation of minors on the net.
I received a well-said comment by Strings, a great guy and member of B.A.C.A., who has supported me and my site. I do agree with his point of view, though I see a bigger picture. Replying to him helped me to see that I wasn’t as thorough in my delivery of my own thoughts in the previous post as I should have been.
I’ve been very busy lately in real life and didn’t take the time I should have to properly comment on the original topics elsewhere or here; therefore, I am taking the reply I posted to him from my last post and posting it here as a regular blog post. I hope this clarifies my concerns and the facts surrounding teens and internet romances.
[…]As for the “internet romance”, there really is no easy answer. The instant a child is told “break it off”, you cement their affections to the person they’ve been “seeing”. Happens every day in “real life”, and the fact that the “relationship” is through the ‘net doesn’t change that dynamic.
The advice to “allow them to chat through a webcam” isn’t the best idea, but it isn’t the worst either. Let me illustrate:
My (fictional daughter) has been having such a romance, and has only seen still photos of her crush. I would sit her down, explain my concerns (in detail), then suggest such a webcam chat: with me sitting just outside the cam’s view. I would also have her suggest this chat to her crush out of the blue: given the commonality of webcams today, there really shouldn’t be any excuse for the crush to say “no” (unless he’s a ped, and doesn’t have the model handy that provided the pics he sent). At that point, an excuse out of the crush exposes the ped, and gives you the wedge needed to protect your child…
Is it foolproof? Hell no… nothing is. But it DOES allow you to A)help verify that it’s another child, not an adult and B)put information into your child’s hands.
THE biggest key here is open communication with your child. If you’re like so many parents today, and your first attempt to broach the subject of relationships and sexuality is when 13 year old Sally confesses her undying love for Joe on Myspace, you’re in a world of trouble already.
Unfortunately, there is no way of making a child “ped proof”. But you CAN make your child “ped resistant”, by teaching them to value themselves. And being involved in their life.
Be aware of grooming behavior. Stop and think about what’s happening in your life (such as divorce) that could be opening your child to risk, and take steps to mitigate those risks. Talk to (not at) your child about the threats that are out there, and ways to avoid them (don’t mention joining a convent).
Lastly: NEVER let your guard down. It always saddens me to hear the reactions when another ped is found working as a preacher/teacher/cop/scoutmaster etc. Pedophiles are predators: they will go where they have access to (and some degree of authority over) children. The above positions give exactly that, yet we (as a society) seem to think the people filling those roles are above reproach…
Last item: the suggestions made by the kids themselves to not “stick your nose in”. My attitude would be easy to convey: be open and honest with me about what you’re doing, and listen to the things I tell you about the world, and I won’t have to toss your room like some B movie Russian spy. Lie to me, and there won’t be ANY privacy on your life, until such time as you leave for the convent. Make sure this simple attitude is imprinted early in the child’s life, and back it the hell up: idle threats actually reinforce bad behavior…
Sorry for the book there, but you’re talking about VERY complex issues. THE only “easy fix” is to deny your child exposure to the technology (or their peers), which will only delay problems.
Or the convent…
[…]I see your points well and I agree with them all. Let me expand on my thoughts, though, regarding teen net romances:
First of all, what got me the most about the comments wasn’t the mere suggestion of the webcam. In fact, I think it’s bloody brilliant and hilarious to sit down with the teen and put the person on the other end on the spot by saying, “Hey, my mom/dad wants to see you. Can we do web cam?”
If anything were to prove a point, THAT would do it! I guarantee you with almost 100% certainty that if it’s someone with ill intent, the teen would never hear from them again! I’m sure they would make up some excuse but the more they try to explain why they can’t do cam, the more obvious they become and you don’t have to say another word about it. Your teen will see it, too.
The part that got me about the comments was that these two people in particular believe the parents should ENCOURAGE a relationship with the “boy” on the net. No decent parent would ever do such a thing, and those that do are the very ones who end up with promiscuous daughters or daughters who end up another tragic statistic. Not to mention homebodies who can’t socialize with living, breathing people. None of these relationships ever ends up with the fantasy ending the other person posted. That’s the kind of fairy tale ideology that makes children victims every day!
There is an issue here, also, of teens being allowed to hide in their rooms and only have net relationships instead of real ones. We end up with “emo” kids, social outcasts because they have no idea how to behave in society, kids who are cheated out of life experiences in the living breathing world around them, kids who have no basic survival instinct or skills because all they do is sit inside and the only people they communicate with are internet avatars in a fantasy world. They can make up their own scenario while living on the net, losing the ability to deal with real life.
By encouraging online relationships, it isn’t just the sexual predator parents are inviting to take their child but the fantasy world that will keep them from ever living up to their full potential and becoming a valued asset to the world around them.
Then there is the encouragement of these people who believe it’s a good idea for the parents of this girl to allow her to have a relationship with A. a boy none of them knows and B. a boy who tried to run away from home to meet a girl HE doesn’t even know.
Are you starting to see where I’m going with this?
Let’s forget for a minute about the probability this 17 year old boy is actually a middle aged pervert trying to coax this girl to run away to meet him because his attempt failed and he just needs her so much.
Okay, no, I have to address this first because this is actually what is going on as we have seen this exact scenario played out time and time again.
The predator tells her he tried to run away to be with her but failed (lie). Then he tells her he loves her so much and needs her, so can she please try to run away to meet him.
When she does, he can say it was her choice to run away to him. He cannot be arrested for stalking her or for coming to her home to get her. In fact, he can’t be touched at all. Pretending to be a 17 year old isn’t a crime. Going to the target’s home IS. However, if SHE goes to HIM, he is free and clear of any crime.
Let’s say he then rapes her, which is going to happen because why else go through all this trouble? He shames her into silence by reminding her SHE came to HIM. And she is scared to call her parents because she ran away. It’s girls like this who end up hooking on the street corner or becoming the live-in whore for the man and his friends.
Again, this isn’t over dramatizing. This is exactly what happens and you can visit your local law enforcement to find out for yourself.
Moving on to that other angle:
Pretend the parent who wrote the post being commented on is the parent of the BOY. Ahhh … see? Let’s say this is your son:
Once again, you know nothing about this girl. Your son has just tried to run away to meet a girl he doesn’t even know except for on the internet. Your son knows her parents wouldn’t approve but he is going to meet her, anyway.
You’re wondering what kind of girl this must be to allow a strange boy to do this, to supply a strange boy with her home address, to disobey her parents and sneak off with strangers from the net. You’re starting to wonder where you went wrong that your son is so lonely he’s willing to run away to meet someone from the net, which could be a sexual predator for all you know.
You see, male sexual predators pretend to be girls, too. They target these young boys because they like the game, they love the sick trick they are playing on this boy who thinks he’s flirting with a girl. Once the boy meets the “girl,” he is so shocked that he doesn’t have time to react as the man (and possibly the man’s friend) grabs him, drugs him, and drags him to his home to be raped repeatedly by himself, his friends, and possibly foreign objects.
The teens in these situations end up as sex toys for several years or for a few nights until they are murdered and next heard of on the evening news.
Again, don’t take my word for it. Contact law enforcement, the FBI, and the missing person’s bureau to find out for yourself.
Most adults would never meet someone they met online. They know the dangers.
Women know men are looking for vulnerable targets to dominate and sexually, physically, emotionally abuse. They know they could be walking into a situation with a serial rapists or murderer.
Men know women who are willing to meet a perfect stranger from the net are lonely and desperate and will more than likely become obsessed. They believe women who do this are easy and might come with a few surprises they’ll have to be tested for after their few hours of fun.
If adults would never put themselves in these situations, why are so many encouraging kids to do it?
To Anonymous Online Dater who sent me an e-mail rather than have your petty and ridiculous, vulgar laden comment posted here (because I would have posted it 😉 ):
No, I am not saying adults can’t use Match.com, eHarmony, or any other online dating service.
No, I am not saying adults who find a meaningful relationship online are stupid or pathetic (please point out where I said that); although, yes, adults who jump right into an internet relationship just after meeting someone with no clue who they are chatting with DO have a lack of self-worth, restraint, and common sense.
You clearly missed the entire purpose for this and the previous post, which is TEENS “hooking up” with people claiming to be other teens online. You completely by-passed every single thing I said about this being an issue of TEEN safety and the very real threat of adult predators pretending to be teens to ensnare them. All you seemed to want to focus on is my mention of adults not allowing themselves to be duped so why do so many have a permissive attitude about teens with less life experience doing so.
Seems to me, Anonymous Online Dater, that you have some underlying issues to work out for yourself if you saw these two posts as an attack on adults using Match.com. I encourage you to READ the description of this site, where you will find it clearly marked as this being about CHILD ABUSE AWARENESS AND PREVENTION. Wow. Comprehend much?