This is part of a Fuller Youth Institute series on navigating digital technology and social media with young people, and a multipart roundtable on issues related to sexuality. The following is a panel discussion on best tips and strategies concerning how to help young people navigate digital technology as they begin to date.
Fuller Youth Institute: The whole process of flirting, dating, being in relationships, and the like has changed quite a bit thanks to digital tech. As you talk with teenagers about this, how do you address the issues of what is helpful and appropriate (or not) in romantic relationships online as opposed to in “real life”?
Annie Neufeld: Students will often tell me about having “conversations” with peers of the opposite gender when they really mean they were communicating by text. Ultimately during these “conversations” there are generally misunderstandings, mixed messages, and hurt feelings. I tend to tell students to make a general rule that they will not have important conversations over text. Wait to be in person or at least have conversations over the phone.
I also advise our young women to not put too much hope in “flirting” over text. Young people are so much less inhibited over text—they say and do things that they would never say or do in person. This gives our young women and men a false impression of the other person. It also creates a false sense of intimacy—it is often difficult to maintain the same kind of texted witty banter in real life…and then everything gets confusing.
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