You may have overheard your kids talking about “catfishing” or someone getting “catfished.” No, they aren’t talking about gills, hooks, or vacationing on the lake. Rather, catfishing is a new digital sport that’s taking place online. The Urban Dictionary defines a “catfish” as “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.”
Getting “catfished” means you’ve been duped into believing someone you’ve met on the Internet is a real person—even though they are completely fabricated by someone else. Catfishing is not cool if you are doing and it certainly isn’t fun if you are the one being lured, or “catfished” into a fictitious relationship. Catfishing scams also includes people faking cancer or other illnesses to raise funds online as well as predators who capture the emotions of underaged children online
The new digital sport surfaced more publicaly in the case of Manti Te’o, star linebacker for Notre Dame. Manti Te’o was involved in a heartbreaking relationship with a young woman who lost her battle with leukemia . . . the only catch was that the girl he loved didn’t actually exist. Te’o says he had a very deep emotional connection with his girlfriend through emailing, Facebooking, and texts. A zealous male fan that has since apologized for tricking Te’o into the online relationship.
While you can’t be online 24/7 with your kids, here’s what you can do:
- Talk about stories in the news. Bring news headlines home for your kids. Talk about the emotional consequences of “catfishing” that can easily get out of control. There have been several catfishing stories that have ended in tragedy.
- Develop their digital street smarts. Teach your kids to be savvy to the scams and cheats online. Be real about the half-truths people may claim online. Anonymity breeds deception—and the Internet is rampant with abuse of gullible people looking for love or friendship.
- Monitor, monitor, monitor. By installing parental monitoring software you can track your child’s online interactions and spot troubling conversations early. Monitoring allows you to coach your child on appropriate conversations and remind them to be guarded with their feelings online.