Magazine article USA TODAY

Parents Need to Be Clued in on Teens

Magazine article USA TODAY

Parents Need to Be Clued in on Teens

Article excerpt

When most of today's parents were teenagers, they developed their romantic crushes on the person they sat next to in algebra class, bumped into in front of their school lockers, or spotted at the next table in the cafeteria. These days, though, teens in search of a date for Saturday night can find romance online, which brings both convenience and risk.

"More than ever, teenagers need a crash course in online safety and social media issues that they encounter on a daily basis," says Gabriella van Rij, an anti-bullying proponent and author of Watch Your Delivery: Unfiltered, Uncensored, Unacceptable. "It's a subject you should have ongoing conversations about."

Online dating is extremely popular among adults, but teenagers have not been left out as technology continues to shape the way people meet and interact. A Pew Research Center study found that eight percent of all teenagers say they met a romantic partner online. Most teens, though, report they had not dated anyone at all. When Pew narrowed its findings just to teens who have dated, the percentage who met their dating partner online jumped to nearly 25%.

In addition, Pew found that 31% of teens 13 to 17 had sent a flirtatious message online and 10% had gone so far as to send flirty or sexy pictures or videos of themselves. "Like it or not, for students today, social media is a way to amplify everything," notes van Rij.

While social media sites provide a means to socialize, they also expose teenagers to the more unpleasant aspects of technology, such as cyberbullying and the dangers of online predators. …

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