I met all sorts of people, from all over the world, older and younger, and each seemingly as desperate for a true connection as I. Should I be blaming my mother, or my – mostly absent – father for feeling that something was eternally missing? I was born to a woman that didn't much want children, and who fell foul to postnatal depression a good couple of decades before the term was even coined.
As I have come to learn, most of those who grow up in a dysfunctional relationship are condemned to seek them out forevermore. In adulthood, I had become a rather complicated girlfriend, each relationship beginning well, but then growing fractured and ending badly.
I am bound to say, though, that I wasn't solely culpable. I ended up marrying one of these complicated boyfriends.
It's important to explain that you're not implementing these changes out of a desire to "spy," but rather to make sure that your child is protected from harmful influences or dangerous people.
If she complains that you're "violating her privacy," make it clear that you will do your best to respect her online conversations with friends, but point out that, as a minor living under your roof, her privacy is limited.
Many parents find it helpful to write up an "Internet use contract" spelling out what sites their children are allowed to visit, how long they are allowed to stay online, and what to do if someone they're communicating with requests personal information or says so and agree on the consequences that will result if the rules are violated.
If you have further questions or concerns, we hope you will feel free to contact Focus on the Family's Counseling Department.
What's your opinion on teens getting involved in social networking and online chat rooms?
I've read some of the teen conversations on the sites my daughter wants to visit, and they seem relatively harmless. While the Internet can be a wonderful educational and communication tool, it can also be a dangerous place for unsuspecting young teens.
It's possible that she's completely oblivious of the dangers lurking there.
Make her aware of some of the more unsavory situations that can unfold on the Internet - for example, how the guy she talks to in a chat room who to be a cute 16-year-old boy might actually be a 55-year-old convicted sex offender.
It would also be an excellent idea to invest in Internet filtering software or sign up with a provider that blocks objectionable Web sites and allows for parental monitoring.