IN days gone by, dating seemed relatively straightforward and safe.
If someone fancied you at school, they’d ask you out or get a mate to do the deed on your behalf.
You might then venture out on a date. That meeting would be arranged via furtive phone calls to your partner’s house, hoping their parents weren’t lugging in.
The teenage romance might last a while but, more often than not, it quickly fizzled out. No harm done.
In this digital age, however, things are never quite as simple. Yes, many kids maintain healthy relationships, simply replacing the old phone call with a social media message.
But we have also seen a growth in a deeply worrying trend – sexting.
Many parents might not even know of its existence; others will see it as a phenomenon that only happens in TV soap plots.
The reality is that it does exist, as shown in our special report on page 31.
One look at your teenage child’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter accounts will provide more evidence, if they haven’t already blocked you.
In some cases, it’s simply over-eager teenagers trying to grow up too quickly. Skimpy tops, short skirts, fake tan galore.
But in others it’s more sinister. Ex-partners posting intimate pictures for all to see or online “suitors” cajoling vulnerable girls or boys into compromising situations.
Our advice: talk to your kids about what they are doing online. It’s not always easy with teenagers, granted.
Grandparents can play a crucial role given children may open up to others when too embarrassed to speak to mum or dad.
And, maybe just maybe, getting them to understand that life isn’t lived on a phone would be a start.