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Online Dating Apps Present Dangers To Children

A man who met adult women and under-age females on an online dating site was charged with several counts of sexual assault. According to investigators in the case, there were at least eight victims and possibly more.

The perpetrator met some of his victims on MetMe, an online dating site. One victim reported that the defendant sexually assaulted her, threatening her with a knife. Marla Carter "Dating app rape suspect accused of sexually assaulting teen" abc13.com (Nov. 21, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

According to a recent U.S. survey, 43 percent of those surveyed responded that they access dating app sites and services several times per week. The same group was asked about their reasons for using online dating sites and apps. Although about 75 percent admitted to looking for a romantic relationship, about 25 percent stated that they were seeking just a sexual relationship with others.

Unfortunately, teens access these sites, as well, which exposes them to sexual predators such as the man in the source article.

As of 2010, about nine percent of children who use the Internet received unwanted sexual solicitations. Predators target teens who will talk online about sex; who post sexually-explicit images, or who discuss trauma or sexual abuse.

How can parents, guardians, and those who work with children help them avoid becoming sexual assault victims?

Know where teens come into contact with online predators: in chat rooms, in games with chat features, and on social media sites. Find out if the teen plays games with chat features. Teens also come into contact with online predators on websites that require no age verification.

Be aware that children between ages 12 and 15 appear to be the most at-risk, and girls more frequently than boys. After girls, boys who openly question their sexual orientation or sexual identity are the next most targeted group, so be particularly vigilant as to this group.

Teens sometimes encourage each other to have inappropriate online conversations with people online, almost like a dare. Talk to teens and discuss the dangers of this sort of peer pressure and the dangers of engaging in sex talk on the Internet. Teach them never to give any personal information whatsoever to a stranger and to not post any pictures. Supervise all minors using devices.

What are the signs that a teen may be having an online relationship with a sexual predator?

  • The teen will be secretive, especially with his or her device. Does your teen hide his or her device? Has your teen changed the password you set?
  • The teen receives texts, phone calls, and emails from people you don't know. There will be porn sites in the teen's browser, and perhaps pornographic images on the teen's devices.
  • Save the suspicious communications, and block the senders.
  • Notify law enforcement or your local child protection agency.
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