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“But in a small percentage of those cases, you may find out you have more in common,” says boyd, who describes a hypothetical scenario where an online relationship may go deeper.“Not only do you both like to blog about fashion but then you discover you both like One Direction and you both play basketball, and, hey, my school team is playing your school team so let’s meet up in person.” Spark’s son Aidan bonded with his online friend in a similar manner.I flashed on stories of predators who entrap young adults through false IDs, of adults who imagine they are IMing with a pretty Russian girl, only to discover they are corresponding with a robot, eager less for love than a credit card number. ” Teens and parents have different views of online friendships because they have different ideas of what socializing should look like, says danah boyd (who doesn't capitalize her name), author of “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.” More From Today: Should Kids Wear School Uniforms?Still it would be fun to have Aidan with me at the literary festival. Parents, who tend to be less comfortable with social media and other online technologies than teens, can’t help but fear that when online relationships evolve to in-person interactions, they are inherently dangerous or risky because they involve “strangers.” “As parents, we have a responsibility to protect our children.“By and large, teens are not sneaking out to meet these people.Most interactions have a safety mechanism — either a parent is present or it happens in a public space,” she said, adding that adults — in the context of online dating — are often less safe about vetting strangers. The biggest mistake parents make, boyd says, is when they tell kids "No, you can’t meet the person," rather than telling them, "Getting to know strangers is a process." So, if your teen says they want to meet their Minecraft friend in person, ask them a few questions first to see how much they actually know about the person, suggests boyd.After befriending her on a dating site called My LOL, he convinced her to move the conversation to the more private Skype platform. Predators build trust on social or dating sites and then move over to private, anonymous apps like Kik and Whats App.
Dating abuse far exceeds other types of abuse that teens face — one in three adolescents is the victim of physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse from a romantic partner.Spark, who wrote about the experience for Slate, says she initially didn’t like the idea of the Internet rendezvous, which her son requested when he discovered Spark was attending a literary festival in the state where his friend lived.Spark, a professor at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, described her reluctance and ultimate acquiescence: My “creep” feelers went out.So when your teen tells you they want to take an Internet friendship — with someone they’ve only met virtually through social media or video games — to the next level by having actual human contact, it raises the question: Should you facilitate the meeting or fret about it?
For Debra Spark, taking her then 13-year-old son to meet a 16-year-old online friend in a different state was something she never thought she would do.
Among their categories of friends — school friends, church friends, camp friends — "online friends" are just another group.