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adult-minor friendships and why they raise concerns (TW: GROOMING)

Heyoo first post here!! Excuse the rambling, but I guess that’s what blogs are made for LOL.

Since I signed up here, I’ve been getting a lot of friendship requests from 16 and even 13-year-olds. It’s been deeply bothering me, so I wanted to talk about it y’know? Give a little explanation of the “no minors” on my page.

Before I start, I think I need to clear up some things:

  1. I am in no way saying there can’t be appropriate and healthy adult-minor friendships, I had adult friends in my mid to late teens with whom I still keep in contact and love deeply, who have truly respected me and my neurodevelopmental process. So please don’t jump down my throat.
  2. I’m not trying to baby minors; I know you don’t have less autonomy just because you’re 16. I’m trying to warn you about possible dangers that you might find on the internet AND in the real world because there are many, and sometimes when we’re kids we think we’re above that, we think we know them all by heart, we think we’re safe from them. Believe me, you are not.

When your parents warn you about internet safety, they warn you about meeting up with strangers, about sharing your location or other personal details, about trusting the people you talk to are who they say they are, etc. They tell you monsters will reach through the screen, grab you, and murder you in cold blood. What they don’t tell you is that even if you take all the precautions, even if you never ever see that person irl, even if they’re being absolutely truthful about their identity and intentions, even if at the moment you’re having the time of your life talking to them…

They can still get to you.

I’ve been groomed online many times since the age of 12. I have had grown-ass 20-somethings talk to me about their sex lives and recommend explicit yaoi manga when I was barely entering middle school, roleplay smut with me, dump all their adult problems on me… Do you know the toll that having to talk a man 10 years your senior off the ledge when you just had your first period takes on you? Some of you probably do, and my heart breaks for you.

But outright grooming isn’t the only danger when it comes to these friendships. Even when they aren’t sexual or you don’t directly talk about touchy subjects, there are certain neurodevelopmental stages that we all go through (or should go through) in our lives. We as adults have a responsibility to be extremely careful when approaching an affective relationship with a minor, tons of strict boundaries need to be set to protect them. And I don’t mean “protect” as in “shield them from the real world”, I mean “protect” as in not being one of the reasons why they rush through those stages. Our teen years are vital in determining how we’ll be as grown-ups, trauma at this age can leave long-lasting effects on our mental health, and it is our responsibility to not contribute to that. Part of that responsibility is, in my opinion, curating the spaces that we share with them. Call me crazy, but I personally don’t think it is appropriate to talk about adult themes such as our sexual lives, severe mental health crises, or drug use in front of kids. But hey! That’s just me! And it’s exactly the reason why I want absolutely no such kids in my space, I don’t want to have to censor myself on here.

Now, the dangers are obviously not only online, but also in the real world. Since the age of 14 most of my irl friends, including my boyfriend, were university students. They passed me and my sibling (childhood best friend, love ‘ya Mattie, you’re a real one) shots of golden rum and blew cigarette smoke on our faces, we got involved in dramas and conflicts that we had no business getting involved in at that age. I thought I was so cool, I felt on top of the world, all of my school bullies were hanging out with one another, they had age-appropriate friendships, such losers! What a bunch of babies! Well, that’s what I thought at the time at least. My friends told me I was mature for my age, you know, the typical, they made me feel special, made me feel like one of the grown-ups, and they didn't treat me any different than they would someone their age. If you ever feel like that with a group of older friends I have only one piece of advice for you: run, run as fast and far away as you can. I know this might be hard to understand for some of you, but doing grown-up stuff doesn't make you cooler, and as much as you enjoy it and think it’s fun right now you’ll probably deeply regret it later, being “cool” isn’t worth wasting your teenagehood getting drunk in parking lots with losers almost twice your age. And you know how I know they’re losers? No respectable adult has any business having a teen they’re not related to at less than arm's length, if they can’t find friends their age to do that stuff with… Well… That says a lot about them.

That dangerous adult your parents warned you about isn’t always a twice-divorced balding 40-year-old with a liking for little girls, it can be 19-year-old Carter who hangs out at the skatepark and “just” wants to give you your first joint, who you feel like you can tell your most personal secrets to, talk about things that your parents and peers just wouldn’t understand. So, keep an eye out. As I said, right now you might actually be enjoying yourself, having the time of your life. But it will catch up to you in a few years, and your stomach will turn thinking about the years gone by.

So yeah, I think that’s all I had to say. Just to close this post I will leave you with this short animated film on YouTube. It made me feel sick the first time I watched it, but in a good way. I feel like it’s the best representation of online grooming I’ve seen in a short film and I really appreciate its existence.

That’s it, bye-bye!!

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Angry Opossum

Angry Opossum's profile picture

I love this post so much! It's wonderful to see someone speak up about this issue while remaining respectful. I've seen far too many adults discuss this matter in an inappropriately hostile and unnecessary manner. I've seen adults on this site blame the children in similar situations for being groomed, which genuinely frustrates me. Children must be extremely cautious online and when dealing with strangers, regarding what they share, say, and do in general, because the sad truth is that there are many creeps out there. As someone who was groomed before they graduated high school, teenagers should also be aware of these risks and understand that they are not immune to them. Any minor is susceptible to grooming, which is a sad fact.

Personally, I believe that adults should avoid speaking with minors. I avoid communicating with them unless they actually want help with something. For example, I saw a blog post asking for advice as someone starting college, and another asking for help deciding which degree to pursue because they were torn between two options. Aside from that, I do not converse with children about any other topics.

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RadianceMutt's profile picture

No minor should be communicating with an adult, period. That's one way for the adult to get into serious legal troubles and one way for the minor to get taken advantage of. This should be basic online safety information at this point.

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n•cturnal's profile picture

This is a very good post. I hope some people take the time to read it.

As a preteen and young teen I spent a lot of time on the internet, and I'm lucky in saying i wasnt ever outright groomed-- but even then, my interactions with people much older than me did range into inappropriate territories and at my youngest I didn't even realize what was happening. And at the same time, at the age of 14 I had a 21 year old friend who was nothing but respectful towards me and all we did was talk about horror movies and how his job sucked. It's definitely possible to be safe and talk to adults online, but i feel like kids should go back to being a little more sparing with their ages and personal info :,> ppl need to be more aware of the ways in which predatory or inappropriate behaviour can present itself and know when to seek help-- as i said, good post

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Thank you for your comment!! I totally agree with you. As I said, I've also got some older friends I met when I was about 13-14 and were totally respectful and appropriate in how they treated me and acted around me, 20-somethings that gave me an actual safe space and didn't overstep boundaries. Still, they were definitely not the majority, and that's something both kids and adults must take into account at all times when interacting with each other. It's on us to break that cycle.

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