Rachel Hynes, mum to a teenager and publisher of the website for parents of teens The Kids are All Right, believes that at the present time social networking sites remain the way in which most teenagers are meeting people and describes these connections, rather aptly, as the equivalent of modern day pen friends.
Whilst Rachel has no data on how often teens who meet online are actually meeting up in ‘real life’, she is certain that it happens, particularly in cases where people live within the same area and have access to public transport and the excuse of going to an event where they can meet.
Teen dating violence can be prevented, especially when there is a focus on reducing risk factors as well as fostering protective factors, and when teens are empowered through family, friends, and others (including role models such as teachers, coaches, mentors, and youth group leaders) to lead healthy lives and establish healthy relationships.
It is important to create spaces, such as school communities, where the behavioral norms are not tolerant of abuse in dating relationships.
Whilst the main reasons for internet use were the same across all age groups, it was quite apparent that the use of social networking remained as one of the top motives for young adolescents to be on the computer, with the breakdown of figures reflecting a 69 percent usage amongst the 12 -13 year olds, an 86 percent usage amongst the 14-15 year olds and a 92 percent usage amongst the 16-17 year olds.
Despite the fact that for the majority of these adolescents the main social networking sites which provide opportunity to meet people remain the likes of Facebook, My Space, Twitter and Instagram, there is a small emergence of teens, as young as 13, who are now adding hook up, chat rooms, and dating sites to those that they visit.
As popular as online dating has become, it’s not a good idea for young people and isn’t a safe way for children to explore relationships.
After a few minutes, a woman came to my table, sat down and said with big smile, "Hi, I'm Chris!
My LOL is one such online dating site that is marketed as “Google’s Number One Dating Site for Teens”, with a minimum age requirement of 14, whilst another is Teenspot, which offers chat rooms for its members entitled “singles”, “flirting” and “hottub”.
Another one that is used perhaps more commonly amongst Australian teenagers is Tinder.
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.
If you find out that your child has been using online dating services, remain calm and try not to get angry with them.