Finding it Online

Included in the world of information and opportunities on the Internet, is a way to meet romantic and/or sexual partners online. Meeting new potential partners has always been exciting for healthy teens. But now the playing field has changed.

What to know

While you may or may not think that it is a good thing that young people meet romantic partners online, hand-wringing and admonitions of "don't do that!" aren't going to keep teens from finding their way to dating apps and sites if they want. They'll just meet people online and not tell you about it. So here are some basics to keep in mind when discussing online dating with your teen:

Under 18 is under age

Most dating/sex-seeking websites are limited to people over 18. But lying about your age to gain access to these sites is easy.

Lots of lying online

While it’s easy for teens to lie about being over 18, it’s equally easy for older adults to pose as being younger than they actually are.

Hook-ups vs. dating sites

Different online sites serve different needs. Some, like Tinder and grindr, are used for casual one-nighters. Others, like e-harmony and ok-cupid, foster romantic relationships.

Social media meet-ups

In spite of all the dating sites out there, people can meet anywhere online, including social media platforms like facebook, twitter, tumblr, and Instagram.

Stranger Dangers

In any relationship there is the potential for abuse, and online isn’t the only place where teens might encounter sexual violence. But a recent report finds that rape linked to online dating is up 450 % in the last five years. Here are some pointers to go through with your teen in order to help keep everyone safe and happy:


Google them
What you find out online (reverse image look-up, sex-offender registries, social media bios) should match with what they tell your teen.
Trust your gut
If something seems off, it probably is—and not worth the risk.
Make a plan
Agree ahead of time on exactly what you’re comfortable with. There’s nothing wrong with keeping it short to start.


Keep it public
Get to know each other in public before agreeing to move to someone’s private home.
Not who you expected?
Sometimes their face-to-face persona doesn’t match up to their online personality. Be ready for that.
Not fun?
No worries. Politely excuse yourself and move on.
Deciding “yes”
Be very clear about whether or not you want a romantic relationship—so no one gets hurt. If you go ahead with a sexual encounter, use protection against pregnancy and STIs. Remember that lying about STI status and fertility is easy—especially with strangers off the web.


Get tested
After every new sexual partner, you should get tested for STIs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). Learn more on the types and treatments here.
Sex against your will is a crime. Get support from police and charities as soon as possible.

Helpful Info

Here are a few sources that, while geared towards parents, are good resources to help everyday mentors like yourself get up to speed on safe online dating tips:

Tips for safe and healthy online dating (USNews):

Why parents need to talk to their teens about online relationships (Huffington Post):

Is your teen dating online (Family Online Safety Institute):

The Bigger Picture

Teens, Technology and Romantic Relationships

A recent report by the Pew Research Center looked into the current state of teens' use of technology as part of their romantic relationship. Here are a few of the highlights:

Relatively few American teens have met a romantic partner online

Overall, 35% of American teens ages 13 to 17 have ever dated, hooked up with or been otherwise romantically involved with another person, and 18% are currently in a romantic relationship. Though 57% of teens have begun friendships in a digital space, teens are far less likely to have embarked on a romantic relationship that started online.

Social media is a top venue for flirting

While most teen romantic relationships do not start online, technology is a major vehicle for flirting and expressing interest in a potential partner. Along with in-person flirting, teens often use social media to like, comment, “friend” or joke around with someone on whom they have a crush.

Girls are more likely to be targets of uncomfortable flirting tactics

Not all flirting behavior is appreciated or appropriate. One-quarter (25%) of all teens have unfriended or blocked someone on social media because that person was flirting in a way that made them uncomfortable.

Social media helps teen daters to feel closer to their romantic partner, but also feeds jealousy and uncertainty

Many teens in relationships view social media as a place where they can feel more connected with the daily events in their significant other’s life, share emotional connections, and let their significant other know they care. At the same time, teens’ use of social media sites can also lead to feelings of jealousy or uncertainty about the stability of their relationships. However, even teens who indicate that social media has played a role in their relationship (whether for good or for bad) tend to feel that its role is relatively modest in the grand scheme of things.

From The Blog

The Chroncile of Evidence-based Mentoring

Talking to Teens about Online Experiences?
New research shows that keeping your cool and hearing them out can pay dividends for communication Teens rarely talk to their parents about potentially risky online experiences, according to new research. Some of these situations may include cyberbullying, sexual exchanges, and viewing inappropriate content online. This disconnection may lead teens to refrain from talking about situations that may upset their mentors. While overreacting may curb communication, mentors should avoid acting dismissive when a teen does come to them with an issue.

Bottom Line for Mentors

It may be that teens are uncomfortable discussing certain topics or experiences with their parents and will turn to a trusted adult mentor as a source of support. Should this occur, it is important that you, as a mentor, remain calm and treat their questions seriously. Doing so acts as a signal of respect for the youth’s experiences, encouraging them to speak candidly. Further, teens have very different experiences online than do the majority of adults. They also process these experiences differently. Understanding their perspective can go a long way in not only connecting with your mentee, but also findings way of showing them why certain online behaviors are troubling, even if they may not “get it” immediately. At the end of the day, withholding immediate judgment when a teen has reached out to you with questions or to talk about their experiences can be a key sign to the youth that you want to hear them out and understand their feelings. This trusted space can serve as a starting point for many conversations down the road, building a closer, more lasting mentoring relationship.