What You Can Do About Inappropriate Online Relationships
It’s scary how many times we get asked this question when we’re speaking at schools or in our workshops, but so many parents ask: I just found out my daughter has been in an inappropriate online relationship with someone she’s never met. What next steps can I take?
Here at SGS, we often talk about smart digital branding, staying on-brand; and what happens when tweens and teens, as well as adults, go off-brand; and how to get back on track. We go into great detail in many of our sessions about online safety.
We’d like to state that this doesn’t just happen to young women, either. This can easily happen on a young man’s device, too. But for ease of reading, we are going to stick with the daughter example outlined above.
If you, as a parent, are facing this nightmarish situation, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and start panicking. We’ve outlined some steps here to regain your sanity and handle the situation in a responsible way and keep your child safe while helping her get back on-brand.
First, is she safe? Has she shared her location or any inappropriate pictures with the other party?
If she has shared her location, personal information, or ANY inappropriate pictures, we at SGS would suggest calling your local police department.
If the problem is someone at the same school, notify the school’s counselor or principal to help you handle the situation and contact the other child’s parents.
If your child sends pictures to an adult that shows either nude, partially nude, or depicts sexual simulation, it is a felony and parents should contact the FBI. Sharing nudes or pics online is a leading factor in sextortion and human trafficking.
Second, block the user.
Depending on how the person is contacting your child, make sure to block them. Block them from calling or texting, from all social media channels, change your child’s email address (if that’s how they have been messaging), and any other steps that need to be taken, such as setting all accounts to “Private.”
Third, review the situation with your child.
Make sure to include these points in the conversation with your child:
- Did you talk about Anonymous users and how you can't prove who they are just from their posts and photos?
- Does she know how to responsibly decide which pictures to share online or with friends?
Fourth, if you haven’t already completed a family tech contract, do so immediately.
Our Smart Digital Planning and Smart Social Media agreements for families help to outline responsible online safety protocols and smart digital boundaries for families. If you haven’t already completed one of these with your family, contact us to get the download!
Lastly, limit the time AND technology access.
This means limiting other devices you might have laying around the house like old iPads, iTouches, or wifi-enabled smartphones. We see many teens having a stash of electronic devices around the house (or their bedroom) like squirrels. As a parent, you might think you do not have any of these devices. However, your kid's friends do, and they can easily be procured at school or at a friend's house.
Smart Girl Society, Inc., is an Omaha-based nonprofit working to educate and inspire smart & confident girls, women, & families. Through educational workshops, civil outreach programs, and technology & social media research, we work with girls, parents, & educators to promote authenticity on social media and in real life. We educate how to remain safe on social media and how to avoid becoming a target of sextortion. We also inspire action for students to focus on their personal brand development, leadership, educational opportunities, and healthy social skills. Interested in learning more? Check us out!