Straight Talk Advice

Jan 25, 2012

Son’s internet romance worries Dad

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: My oldest, age 15, is in a long-term, long-distance relationship with "the one." He is constantly asking to visit her. I have concerns about the level of supervision there (every interaction has involved questionable decisions by her family, including bringing them to a hotel room under supervision). I believe they are hurting each other more than helping. Because of the distance, I don't think he is learning essential communication skills with the opposite sex. Am I over-reacting? How can I convince him that I just might know what I'm talking about? — Kevin

Katie 18, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

I agree with you. A relationship with someone you never see is reason for concern. At his age, he should be hanging out with friends, not trying to meet “the one” (much less spending all his time online doing it). I don't see it ending well. She can cast anything as the truth and he will believe it. And really? A hotel room? If they must meet, it shouldn't be in a bedroom.

Matt 17, Mission Viejo, Calif. Ask me a question

I had a “girlfriend” over the internet for about five months. Looking back, she wasn't what I portrayed her to be. The distance made me disregard her problems and involve myself way too deeply.

Katelyn 17, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

If you have valid reason to believe their relationship is more hurtful than helpful (i.e., questionable decisions by those involved), you are not over-reacting. Even without this, a mostly-electronic relationship is an automatic red flag. People are more careless with their words and meeting “the one” is very unlikely.

Sarah 19, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

I agree that this is an unhealthy way for your son to develop crucial social skills and experience with relationships. His youth, inexperience, and current relationship are preventing him from truly seeing his options. Time and the distance will eventually come between them, but until then, since he claims to love her, there isn't much that will make him see reason.

Brie 20, Santa Barbara, Calif. Ask me a question

The relationship will run its course. As long as he continues other social things, like hanging out with his guy friends, I don't see too much of a problem. At his age, relationships come and go.

Nate 17, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

It's difficult to learn how to communicate with the opposite sex without face-to-face socialization. Have a talk with you son. Tell him you're proud that he wants to be in a relationship, but that he needs to seek out people in his community.

Gregg 20, Los Angeles Ask me a question

Are you thinking rationally? How can a 15-year-old know this girl is “the one”? You've gone through puberty. You know the unlikelihood of this. Step in and steer your child in the direction you know is best. We are products of our parents, so make a great product of your kid, not one you regret.

The panelists aren't mincing words and I'm hearing one message: a long-distance electronic relationship isn't healthy. Most digital-heavy relationships wouldn't survive two seconds in physical reality. Both parties waste time in front of a box immersed in an illusion while missing out on social skills that can only be obtained person-to-person. Reasoning with your son hasn't worked. Your household is not a democracy, it is a monarchy and you are in charge of your child's welfare. Many families have a flat-out rule that you can't get involved in an internet-heavy relationship until you're 18 and on your own. This rule doesn't say he can't have a relationship with her, he just has to wait. Period.

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