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Ask an Expert: Is a predator stalking my teen?

Q. I am concerned that my teenaged daughter might be involved with someone much older online. I don’t know for sure, but she’s acting defensive when I ask her about her online activities and her friend made a comment that made me wonder. What are the signs that a minor could be involved in an inappropriate online relationship? Is it OK for me to check the websites and social networking sites she frequents and communicate with people I find that I don’t know?

A. In conducting Internet safety presentations with teenagers I tell them, “If you can’t show your parents what is on your computer, social networking site or cell phone, you are probably doing something you should not be doing.”

If you wonder about your daughter’s online activity, I would suspect it has also gone to phone 


communications. Does she have a cell phone?  It is much easier and convenient to communicate all the time via text messaging  and the phone. I would suspect there would also be communications via the cell phone if she has one.  The cell phone could be of some insight to you.

If you think about it, teenagers hardly ever take their computer with them when they leave home.  Teenagers take their cell phones with them everywhere.  Predators know it is easier for parents to check computers and social networking sites as the computer is left at home.  Teenagers’ phones are not.

One of your questions asks, “Is it OK for me to check the websites and social networking sites she frequents and communicates with people?”  Absolutely!!!  Technology does not stop us from parenting. If you are concerned primarily based on your daughter’s reaction, then, as a parent, you are probably right.  It is far better to follow your parental instincts than not and have someone prey on your daughter.

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