Dating and romantic relationships look vastly different for today’s youth. It is becoming increasingly more popular since the pandemic for youth to meet their significant others on dating apps and social media platforms. And while social media is a fantastic tool for connecting us to many people and streams of content worldwide, it has also made it easier to be unfaithful in relationships.

Unfortunately, what is very disheartening is that cheating has become moderately normalized and glamorized for the younger generation. For example, Tik Tok’s are posted daily, boasting about being “the other woman” in a relationship. Public figures such as Khloe Kardashian, whom many young women look up to, have witnessed NBA basketball player Tristan Thompson cheating on her not once but twice, and she has taken him back both times, alluding to young girls that cheating is all right. Cheating can impact the person who is being cheated on psychologically. It can lead to self-blame, anxiety, trust issues, and lower self-esteem.

Relationships themselves look a lot different for teens than they used to. A lot more teens are finding themselves in “situationships” you are probably wondering, “what the heck is a situationship .”In the simplest of terms, it is a more casual, undefined relationship that means enjoying the benefits of a relationship but not giving too much emotional energy. Situationships tend to become toxic quickly as one person is usually more emotionally invested than the other. Leading the more invested individual go through a lot of self doubt.

It is essential for parents who have teens who have been cheated on or are in a more undefined relationship to understand the importance of being there for their teen and helping them navigate through this emotionally trying time for their teen.

The first thing parents will want to understand is what cheating most commonly looks like now. While cheating can still be a physical affair between an individual and someone who is not their spouse, cheating for younger people tends to happen over social media. As a parent, cheating over social media may be foreign to you. Here is a brief rundown of what social media cheating can look like;

Social Media Cheating;

Sending flirty direct messages to someone who is not your partner

Confiding in someone who is not your partner

Following people on social media that you have the desire to hook up with

Leaving flirty comments on someone’s post which is not your partner

Constantly checking someone’s online status

Almost hiding their relationship.

Being 24 years old, I am considered a late-gen Z. I remember when both Snapchat and Instagram came out. Much like how many teens now are meeting their partners online, I technically had my first conversation with my first boyfriend over Instagram. We depended on social media throughout our relationship as he was away playing hockey for the majority of our relationship.

I have experienced social media cheating firsthand. In my case, a lot of the initial warning signs were there. While my boyfriend at the time was gone playing hockey, I noticed that he had removed my initials from his Instagram bio. I asked him why and he said something along the lines of “I like keeping my relationships more private” at the time; that answer was good enough for me. As I have gotten older, I prefer not to overshare my relationships online myself. However, because I still had lingering suspicions and was a very emotional teenager, I decided to check to see some of his new followers on Instagram. I was “delighted” to see that they were all pretty girls who attended the university where he played hockey, and the final straw was when I saw he was following and liking pictures of girls I went to high school with whom he did not know. What made it worse was that I found out from one of the girls, not from him.

The whole experience did leave me with negative feelings toward social media and relationships for a while. I did have the same lingering fears and anxieties and started picking up bad social media habits, such as checking Snapchat scores and followers. And overall left me with trust issues that I had to work on not carrying into my next relationship. Your teen could be experiencing and going through the same, if not similar, emotions. Here are some things to do and say to help them navigate through this.

Try and keep your opinion out of it. Out of love, we want to tell them that person is not worth it. However, they may not initially see it that way. They are already trying to navigate through so many different emotions.

Let them vent; one of the best things you can do is sit there and listen. Let them say what they need to say.

Validate how they feel and reassure them that you are there for them

Ask them what they need right now. Hug? Ice cream?

Reassure them that it is not their fault and that they do not need to make any big decisions right now

Suggest going to do something fun, maybe a movie

What’s most valuable for the person who has been cheated on to understand is their actions are not a reflection of you and your self worth. It has more to do with them than it has to do with you.