Today, the online world has become a digital playground for children to stay in touch with school friends, meet new friends through various online activities such as gaming and maintain social interactions.
Online relationships can remove barriers that children may have when meeting for the first time and allow those who are shy or socially anxious to develop their social skills in a space where they feel safe to do so.
Although using social apps and online platforms can help children to maintain relationships, concerns have been raised about teen safety when exploring romantic relationships online.
So, what can be seen as harmless chat can turn into something harmful. If a child is lacking in critical thinking or is considered vulnerable, it may be harder for them to spot when a chat with a ‘new friend’ can put them at risk of grooming or being lured into sending nudes for example.
The key role technology plays for teens
Our research found that the majority of teens see the role the internet plays when they build relationships to be positive. 52% of children agreed that tech and social media made it easier to sustain a relationship with 24% saying they find it easier to find love on the internet.
Communication between children doesn’t just begin or end at school and having a medium such as the internet or social media, allows them access to each other 24/7.
Teens can freely express their feelings and attraction by liking, commenting and interacting with a love interest at any time and these exchanges can help them find information about a potential partner.
How online connection supports offline relationships
Whilst technology doesn’t necessarily replace face-to-face interactions in some aspects, it is now an integral part of young people’s relationships. Teens online behaviours may create real-life problems offline, like abuse, negative thoughts and perceptions of themselves or others.
Online relationships are based on limited information and so a teen who forms online relationships and only knows so much about that person.
The lack of teens experiencing engaging in real-life relationships can hurt their ability to develop healthy relationships and therefore can have an impact on how they view what a healthy relationship looks like.
This can especially happen if your child is missing out on real-life relationships as they spend too much time online and may be missing out on opportunities how to learn and practice skills that allow healthy relationships to develop.