#onlinedating | Internet safety alert for parents as Facebook launches new online dating feature

WICHITA, Kan – Facebook’s new dating feature is available to users 18 and older, however, if kids lied about their age when they signed up for Facebook, they could have access to it before they turn 18.

Facebook Dating is not a separate app, but users do have to opt in. It matches people to others with similar interests. The dating messenger only allows text messages; not pictures or links.

Sergeant Jeff Swanson works on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for the Wichita Police Department. He says if your kid has a phone with cameras and internet, you should set rules and boundaries and talk to your kid about the expectations.

Sgt. Swanson says if your kids have friends over, you probably watch them. You see what they’re doing and listen to what they’re talking about. He says you should do the same when your child is talking to people online. He suggests that parents look at the phone to see who their child is talking to and what they’re talking about.

“If your child has a phone, why is the child taking it to the bathroom with them? Why is the child taking it to their bedroom with them? Who’s going to call your child at three o’clock in the morning that they need that phone for?” Sgt. Swanson says. “Parents need to think, ‘what’s the best use of this technology for my child?'”

The Pew Research Center says in 2018, only about half of teens used Facebook. That’s down from about 71% in 2014-2015. Although Facebook is declining in popularity among teens, parents should still keep up with all the latest social media trends.

Sgt. Swanson says kids are always up-to-date on the latest social media. He says it’s harder for parents, but they need to know what’s out there so they can keep their kids safe. Sgt. Swanson says parents should know the passwords to their kids’ social media accounts. He also thinks parents should regularly check their kids’ phones and go through all the apps.

“They have a Facebook account or an Instagram account or Snapchat that is for family and friends, and then they have a second account or a third account that the parents don’t know about, and the only way for parents to know is to actually take that device and find out what their child is doing,” he says.

Sgt. Swanson says kids make mistakes and they don’t understand the dangers of the internet. He says parents should be firm about internet safety, but should also encourage open communication. He says you don’t want to scare your kids into not talking to you. If they make a mistake, they should feel that they can come to you to fix it before the situation gets worse.

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