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Very Sexual Teen Dating Facebook Group Is Terrifying Parents

Update Feb. 3, 2016

This story published the afternoon of Feb. 2, and that night, the "Teen Dating and Flirting" page was taken down. Well done, Facebook.

The Short of It

A Facebook group called "Teen Dating and Flirting" is highly concerning to parents, and it's easy to see why!

The Lowdown

Boasting more than 18,000 members, the public group "Teen Dating and Flirting" is more like a portal to everything parents dread than a fun way for teens to connect. From sexual posts and overly suggestive selfies, to cyberbullying, to making connections with strangers, especially those who are adults posing as teens, it seems this group is doing more harm than good.

Here's a sample of some comments posted to the group:

"Any chubby girls here to chat with me??"

"All girls Pls post a selfie if ur still virgin."

Captioning a selfie of a teen girl: "Dirty comments pls."

Other selfies ask users to rate them, and many are very sexual in nature. There's also no shortage of links to pornography.

But beyond the surface reasons a parent might want their child to stay away from this Facebook group, now the disappearance and murder of a teen named Nicole Lovell, who often posted to "Teen Dating and Flirting," has ramped up the sense of urgency. Weeks before Lovell went missing, she shared a selfie in the group and asked members if she was "cute or nah." The comments that were left are too mean to even share in this story.

Now parents, and even an advocacy group Justice for Children Without Voices, are wondering why Facebook hasn't deactivated the page. In fact, after voicing concerns, the organization understood the page would be taken down within 24 hours, but no action has been taken yet.

The Upshot

It's worth noting not all teen groups on Facebook are like this one. One page in particular mentioned by The Washington Post is called "Øffîčïåł :) Téëñš Øñłÿ Grøüp {13-19}," and it doesn't allow bullying and sexual content, nor does it allow adults to join. Impressively, this group also posted the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in its sidebar.

But my biggest worry as a mom is that social media in general is sending kids negative messages about their bodies and hurting their self-image. It only serves to amplify the issues they face, from bullying to peer pressure. Groups like these may purport to help teens connect with one another, but like many parents, I tend to think they only increase the risk of teen depression, anxiety, and even suicide.

It's also concerning that there's basically no means to regulate comments and links in a group like this; only the members can report inappropriate content, and it's unlikely a teen would report another teen for posting things they themselves are also sharing. Yet pornography and hate speech are supposedly not allowed on Facebook. So what gives?

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