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: 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: 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: If you have valid reason to believe their relationship is more hurtful than helpful (e.g., 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: 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: 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: 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.
Dear Kevin: 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. — Lauren
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