DEAR AMY: We have recently become aware that our 14-year-old daughter has been in very close contact with an 18-year-old boy who lives halfway across the country, thanks to the magic of the Internet. We are not aware of all of the details of their communications (which is primarily by texting), but there is definitely a strong emotional bond.
This has been going on for several months, and we noticed that our daughter has been very secretive and texting constantly in any spare time. She is very quiet and shy and not very active about socializing with people in normal (versus virtual) life.
Naturally, we as parents are very concerned about this and unsure of what to do.
For now, we will attempt to open up the arrangement so that we can monitor what is going on: only email contact, with us monitoring the communications.
Frankly, this sounds very difficult, both from an emotional standpoint for the kids and a practical issue of making sure secret contact does not take place. Any access to the Internet is a potential line of communication that we cannot monitor.
Any advice for parents in this modern age of communication? — Parents in the New World
DEAR PARENTS: Welcome to cyberparenting. It's tricky. I shared your question with Donna Rice Hughes, whose website Internet Safety 101 (internetsafety101.org) offers helpful tutorials for parents and kids to navigate through this safely.
Realistically, you will not be able to eliminate contact, and you might not even be able to monitor it thoroughly, though you should check her texts (unannounced) to make sure they are not sexual and follow her presence on social media.
You should also open this up to the extent that you can to get to know this young man whom she cares so much about. At her age, you as parents should make every effort to meet and get to know all of her friends, real world or virtual. This is non-negotiable.
Communicate with him via Skype, phone or email, with your daughter present and with an open attitude. Verify that he is who he says he is. (And does he know that she is 14?) Also connect with his parents to let them know of this relationship. Basically, you want to demonstrate to both that you are present and involved.
Limit your daughter's phone time to make sure she gets her homework done and participates in family life. Encourage her to get involved with at least one school activity and help her to foster friendships closer to home.
DEAR AMY: I have a son-in-law who is 37, 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 250 pounds. I love him dearly because he treats my daughter like gold. The problem is his diet. He loves and craves cheese and eats cheese on everything.
I want to warn him about the pitfalls of this, but I'm hesitant. His father picks on him about his weight/diet, but it doesn't seem to do any good.
I think he's an emotional eater, and I don't want to make waves, but if he continues with this diet he's going to make my daughter a widow and their children fatherless real soon.
We get along very well, but I just don't know how to approach him about this. I don't want to sound like his father. Can you give me some ideas? — Father-in-law
DEAR FATHER-IN-LAW: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 52 percent of men 18 years and over met the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity.
Your son-in-law most likely knows how unhealthy his diet is. Don't confront or criticize. His father already belittles him on his eating; it would be great for you to be a friend in his corner, encouraging him toward a healthier lifestyle by being active with him (if possible). Also, encourage him to get regular medical checkups. Too few men visit their doctor regularly; seeing a physician could be a lifesaver for him.
DEAR AMY: "Confused and Sad" wrote about falling in love with a man other than her husband. I hope she takes your advice to work hard to recommit to her marriage. To leave her husband and children is an act that cannot be undone, while an infatuation can be fleeting. — Been There
DEAR BEEN THERE: I agree. Thank you
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamytribune.com. You can also follow her on Twitter askingamy or "like" her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)
By Amy Dickinson