This is frightening: a survey of teenage girls found that 30 percent had met up, in person, with a stranger they encountered online. They even admitted that they didn't know exactly who they'd decided to meet up with, since there was no way the person's identity could've been confirmed. The researchers asked 250 girls ages 14 to 17 about their habits online, and needless to say, the results are a bit startling.
Don't these girls know better than this? How could they not realize this is very risky behavior that could, as my mother would say, leave them dead in a ditch somewhere? The good news is there's something parents can do.
The researchers found that "high quality parenting" is the best tool when it comes to arming teens against online temptations. And this so-called "high quality parenting" doesn't mean installing content filters on your teen's computer. That, evidently, had very little effect. Believe it or not, open communication and a foundation of trust with a parent is what helps teens make smart choices when it comes to their behavior online.
Ninety percent of teens have access to the Internet every day, and at an age when it can be perceived as really badass to have a revealing profile picture and to brag about "cool" activities like drinking, partying, boyfriending, etc. online, it can be difficult for them to take a step back and realize that the content they're providing can be used against them. Not only do college admission officers look at that, but so do potential predators.
Girls who had such "high-risk" profiles were more likely to meet a stranger they met on the Internet in person. Teen girls who had been previously mistreated or suffered from abuse were also more inclined to make a virtual relationship a real one.
There's a lot to be scared of if you're a parent of a high school girl. Everything from her group of friends to her grades to her sportsmanship to her prom dress can be a source of sleepless nights for a mom, but it sounds like if you keep up the "high quality parenting", you're doing something right for her, and for you.
Now, if only we could "high quality parent" them into staying in kindergarten forever ...
How do you talk to your teens about their Internet presence?
Photo via spree2010/Flickr