Mom/Dad, can I go meet my Internet friend in person?

To be absolutely-100%-embarrassingly-so-honest, my gut reaction to this question would be “No!! What if it’s some creep! Or a scammer!! What if they kidnap you!! Or worse! Don’t you know how dangerous that is?!?!?!”

But, of course, I know this question warrants a lot more consideration.

So hold on, let’s start over.

Should you let your child meet their Internet friend in person?

According to a UNH study, 16 percent of teens have considered meeting someone they’ve only talked to online and 8 percent have actually met someone they only knew online.

So first of all, recognize that your child trusts and respects you enough to ask for your permission rather than simply sneaking out and meeting them behind your back. If they’re asking, this already shows that you’re doing a pretty good job openly communicating with them and building a healthy parent-child relationship.

Instead of bursting out with a “No!! Of course not!!!” and rambling about the many dangers online, express interest in your child’s relationship with their Internet friend. Ask them how they met, what they have in common, where and why they want to meet, etc. But the most important thing is that you ask these questions as a parent. That means no interrogating your child! Don’t bombard them frantically with questions or make them feel that they’ve done something wrong. This is going to cause them to clam up or get defensive, and that’s the last thing you want! Your child wants to meet a new friend; express genuine interest and consider their request seriously!

Parents tend to have their doubts about online friendships because they have different ideas of what socializing should look like. Many of us, myself included, grew up going out to the movies, the park, the skating rink, etc. with a bunch of our friends. Sometimes, our friend’s friends would tag along, and we would meet them then.

However, with the rapid onset of digital technology and online social platforms, socializing has taken on a completely new context. Our children may enjoy many of the same things as we did when we were young (my son is definitely an avid movie-goer), but they also like sharing, chatting, and gaming online.

We parents tend to be less comfortable with all this “digital socializing,” because we may not be as familiar with this kind of culture. We can’t help but worry that when these online relationships escalate to real-life ones, our children will somehow end up hanging out with dangerous “strangers.”

Author's Bio: 

KidGuard's sole mission is to protect your children online. Our team spends every waking hour thinking about how to bring awareness and inspire solutions on issues of cyber bullying, online predators, teen suicide, and childhood depression in the age of technology. KidGuard employs a team of researchers and writers to educate parents on solutions to digital parenting problems and also runs a popular child cell phone monitoring software to allow parents to stay involved in their child's life online.