#childsafety | Louise Palanker: Online Relationship Safety, How to be the Bigger Person | Homes & Lifestyle

Question from Joanie

Why is an online relationship considered unsafe?


Good question. When you are underage and you meet people in real life, you can get a sense that you are age appropriate for one another.

You also receive all kinds of additional information that helps you recognize whether or not you are in any danger. Your instincts kick in. If something doesn’t feel right, you call your folks, you walk away, you don’t allow yourself to be alone with the person. You trust your gut.

When you meet someone online, the data available to your instincts shrinks down to about 5%. With your guard down in this way you are responding only to the cute photo, the sweet words and the rush of love that engulfs you when you feel adored, admired, understood and appreciated.

However, you have no way of knowing if you are talking to a nice kid your age or if you are communicating with an adult online predator who has lifted that photo and is lying about their age, their gender, their location, really anything.

This person could be tricking you into falling in love and manipulating you into believing that they are the only person in the world who truly gets you. The real danger comes when you feel so in love with this person and so alienated by your own family that you agree to meet the person by yourself, in real life.

You may say that you would never do that but what if this person talks you into sending nude photos and then you learn that they are not who they claimed to be? You don’t know where those photos are going. You just know that they are out there and the feeling of betrayal, vulnerability and fear will be overwhelming.

You can make friends online but once you agree to a “dating” type of situation, an online predator will begin asking you innocent questions that will quickly lead to inquiring about boyfriends or girlfriends and wondering if you’ve ever kissed anyone … the conversation will often then turn sexual and you, believing that this is love may share private and intimate thoughts and feelings.

You can’t take those words back. You can’t take any inappropriate photos back.

Online space is much like the whole wide world. A child has not yet gained the judgment to be out there on her own. At 18, you are no longer a minor and you are therefore less vulnerable.

Of course you should still never meet anyone in real life unless you bring a friend or meet in the daytime at a very public place. Never EVER let a real life stranger pick you up in a vehicle!

Online dating remains dangerous at every age but there are precautions that adults will take and red flags that children are not yet capable of seeing or heeding.

Please be careful. Your safety is the highest priority.

(Bark video)

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Question from Natasha

Hi Weezy. I have been struggling getting along with my older sister lately. She just has a difficult personality sometimes. I feel like everyone has to walk on eggshells around her because once you do something to upset her she’ll be mad and won’t talk for months. It doesn’t help that she’s introverted so if she doesn’t have to interact with someone for days she won’t mind.

I’ve always gotten along with her for the most part. However, during finals week I’ve noticed she was a bit more irritable. The other day I was simply trying to make conversation with her and I barely got a reply, then she just simply walked away and locked herself in her closet. I went over and asked her if I had done something to upset her but got no reply.

After a couple days went by she started acting like nothing happened … I got annoyed but didn’t confront her, I just assumed I had just bugged her in a time that she probably wanted to be alone to study for finals.

I just find it frustrating that she’s way older than me (six-plus years) but still struggles to communicate her feelings. Now that I’ve been distant with her, giving her space (like I assume she wanted), she’s acting as if I’m the problem and I’m mad at her. I know this because she does petty things around the house.

For instance, she’ll wash everyone’s dishes but mine ( this is annoying because I’m always cleaning up and washing dishes and it wouldn’t hurt to have it done once in return) and acts as if I’m not there.

Sometimes I think it’d be difficult to continue having a relationship with her in the future. It hurts me to think that because my mom always encourages us to be close and she’d never want us to fight once she’s gone. My sister is just difficult, and I’m getting extremely tired of always being the bigger person.

Any advice? I’d truly appreciate it. Thank you.


The good news is that you never get to stop being the bigger person. I call that good news because, as you continue living with yourself, you will find it to be quite a gift that you are not amassing drawers full of regrets and doors slammed and words you can’t talk back.

Yes, it’s hard when you don’t get to choose your housemates. Plus, she is your sister for life. But I think you understand that the only person you can control is you. To me it sounds like your sister has issues that are not really about you at all. You are just on the receiving end of her frustration. Especially during finals week as you have surmised.

Continue being kind, cheerful and helpful. If it feels like your sister needs space, give her that space as you have been doing.

But don’t do it out of spite or with an, “I’ll show you!” attitude. Just go about your day. Smile. Keep your tone and demeanor pleasant. Do your own dishes.

Yes, it would be nice if she were not so passive aggressive but she is. Don’t engage with negative energy. When she comes back around, just accept it. Don’t expect acknowledgement of her irritability or an apology. You can’t change her. You can only do you.

You two have a big age gap and when you are both adults things may be very different. You will have space from one another. You will have each grown into your personalities.

At the moment, she may be harboring a lot of jealousy. Especially if it appears to her that you have an easier time engaging socially. Her needs may not have always been met when your parents became preoccupied with you, the new baby. She may be mad about something that happened when she was 8. We just don’t know.

When she doesn’t respond to you, just walk away. Don’t say anything sarcastic. Just say, “I’m here if you need me.” You can say, “Do I need to apologize for anything?” But then leave it there.

Don’t give this behavior of hers a ton of attention. She’s doing this stuff to gain some sort of control. Not really responding to it is the best response.

You can also try complimenting her in a way that feels natural. Sort of conversational like, “Well, Beth could send a card because she’s such a good writer.” Or a simple, “You look so pretty in that.”

Gradually, as kids grow up and grow independent of one another and the natural competition for parental love and attention abates, siblings can and do grow closer. Since this is important to you, I believe that you will be able to reach that goal.

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Got a question for Weezy? Email her at [email protected] and it may be answered in a subsequent column.

— Louise Palanker is a co-founder of Premiere Radio Networks, the author of a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel called Journals, a comedian, a filmmaker (click here to view her documentary, Family Band: The Cowsills Story), a teacher and a mentor. She also co-hosts the podcast Media Path with Fritz Coleman, and teaches a free stand-up comedy class for teens at the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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