Tell Me About It: I’m worried because my daughter is online dating

I’m not old-fashioned, I’m just extremely concerned for her safety

Illustration: Getty Images

Illustration: Getty Images

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 01:00

Q I recently learned that my daughter, in her 20s, is online dating. I’m afraid I reacted badly when I heard, so I haven’t much further information apart from her telling me that she ha d been on a few dates.

I’m not old-fashioned, but I am extremely concerned for her safety. She doesn’t know these guys from Adam, and you hear things about what can happen. There are definitely risks involved.

She thinks I’m being ridiculous , but people can say anything they want about themselves online. Meeting a stranger, you just don’t know. What are his true motives? She says I’m over-reacting. How do I convince her to take the danger seriously?

A It’s a pity you got off on the wrong foot with this, although it’s a sensitive subject. Online dating is secretive due to a stigma in Ireland. Young people tell me they don’t want their friends to know they are hooking up online because in a small country word travels fast.

“This secret and anonymous side to online dating poses risks for men and women, particularly so when people make the transition from online to face-to-face communication,” says Pat Grange, a therapist with Relationships Ireland.

If I were you, I would apologise for being judgmental, then try to open up a more informed chat about it.

“We always encourage people to use trusted dating sites, to be slow to disclose any personal details until trust has been established fully, and to take sensible precautions when meeting for the first time,” he says.

Never assume anything from a potential romantic partner’s online profile. Always meet in a public place, such as a cafe, and during the day, using the same common sense as with meeting any stranger, and always inform a friend or family member of the time and place of the meeting, and agree to text them afterwards.

Some women I know will spend a Saturday afternoon in a coffee shop with back-to-back meetings scheduled. If that sounds soullessly efficient, at least limit your date to a coffee and give yourself time before committing to a second date.

“Dating should be fun and enjoyable. If it ever feels too intense, or you feel pressurised in any way, we advise people to slow down and reappraise the situation,” says Grange.

Online dating can be a great way back “out there” for people who have been separated or have ended long-term relationships. Use secure dating sites and resist sharing your personal details with anyone until you’ve got to know them and feel comfortable.

“If the person you are talking to on the site is trying to steer the conversation towards a sexually explicit nature, I would also urge caution,” says Grange. “This would apply to anybody going on any date, no matter where they met, whether online, in a pub or club or even in the workplace.”

It is worth remembering that most sexual violence against women is by men they already know. It is important for your daughter to feel she can talk to you, so perhaps you need to reappraise your disapproval and let her know that you support her in her choices. That way, if she does have doubts about someone she has met, in whatever circumstance, she is more likely to share them.

Don’t tell her what to do. She’s an adult now.

Email your questions for Kate to tell me aboutit@irishtimes.com or contact Kate on Twitter, @kateholmquist. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into

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