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Sex life lousy? Blame bad health choices

Updated: February 24, 2013 6:06AM



Today’s teenagers are the first generation to have 24/7 access to the Internet in the palm of their hand.

It’s not unusual to find them glued to their phones or laptops, surfing the Web, updating their Facebook pages, and Tweeting and Instagraming their every move.

While technology can bring with it many benefits, it also can carry dangers as well, and a recent study shows just how close and prevalent that peril might be.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati surveyed more than 250 girls, ages 14-17.

They found that many of these girls chatted with complete strangers on the Internet; 30 percent actually met with these strangers in real life, even when that person’s identity was not verified.

Teens who visited websites with sexual content were more likely to meet strangers online as were teens with provocative or sexual content on their social media pages.

The researchers also discovered a link between past abuse and risky online behavior.

Their findings showed that teenage girls who had been sexually abused or maltreated in the past were more likely to demonstrate risky behavior online.

Studies such as these help to show how devastating and insidious sexual abuse can be on a victim.

It can have a far-reaching impact on a person’s self-worth and their feelings of security and body autonomy.

Abusers often will trick their victims into thinking it’s their fault, or that they asked for it, and this can further complicate the person’s ability to understand and work through the trauma.

Victims might feel like “I’m used goods, so who cares?” or they might wrongly think that their bodies and their sexuality are all they have to offer the world.

Additionally, abusers often prey on children and adolescents who lack a strong network of family and friends, and in these cases, the abuser might be the only person who shows attention to the victim.

Since abuse often can be accompanied with gestures and words that feel like love to the victim, he or she can understandably misinterpret the abuser’s true motives and begin to confuse abuse with love.

As a result, the victim might struggle to set and understand healthy boundaries and continue to be victimized by people who play out this same scenario throughout their life.

Even if abuse hasn’t occurred, teens are still at risk of being manipulated and oversexualized by the media.

In our society, sex sells, and this means that teenagers (especially teenage girls) start to think of sex as their best tool to get ahead in the world.

Who can blame them when they see celebrities make it big with sex tapes?

When icons such as Kim Kardashian put sexy pictures on their Instagram and Facebook accounts, teen fans want to follow suit, not realizing that their pictures and actions are making them targets for online predators.

They also don’t realize that in real life, leaked sex tapes are embarrassing and frightening, and not a lucrative way to get a TV deal.

As awkward as these conversations can be, I think it’s important for every parent to have with their teenager.

Be a “friend” on Facebook to your teen so you can monitor what they post, and drive it home that everything they put online is there forever, and that one “sext” or nude photo can follow them the rest of their lives.

And, even if you have to repeat it a thousand times, tell your teenager to never, ever meet a online stranger in real life, no matter how “cool” the person might seem or how much they might seem to have in common.

Remind them that they should never talk to any strangers online or disclose any personal information to anyone until they have verified who that person really is.

It’s easy to pretend to be a fellow teenager or classmate, even if nothing could be further from the truth.

Go to http://www.netsmartz.org/internetsafety to learn more about online safety tips and to help get the conversation started with your teen.

They need your guidance, online and in real life, so get involved and stay involved.

Dr. Berman is the host of “In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman,” which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.



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