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Dear Rosanna: Older online guy won't back off

Q My internet date turned out to be an older man, and now he won't stop texting me.

He didn't look a bit like the photo he had posted online, and he wasn't a student and didn't live at home with his parents. I think he's about 35 -- he's going bald -- and I'm 17. He keeps texting to say he has never met anyone like me before, and wants to get to know me better. I am freaked out, but I am afraid to tell my parents as I lied about my age on the dating website and said I was little older. What should I do?

A Unfortunately this seems to happen regularly in the world of internet dating. With the anonymity of cyberspace, it's far too easy for users to lie about who they are and we've all heard some horrifying stories.

My advice is to stay away from such dating sites at your age, as you could find yourself in serious trouble.

Have you asked this guy to stop texting you? Cut off all contact immediately and don’t pass on any personal details. I would further advise you to consider changing your phone number if he persists and end your account on the dating site. You need to protect yourself from scammers and be careful about what you reveal about your personal life.

It’s dangerous to take what people say online at face value and, no doubt, you have learned your lesson. If he continues to contact you, I think you should tell your parents and consider approaching the Garda about it if you feel threatened. As a young woman, your safety is paramount.

Q My mum has just left my dad for her 'boyfriend' and I'm devastated. She's way too old to have a boyfriend -- she's 42 -- but he's a man she played golf with and she has told my dad they are an 'item' and has moved into his house with him. My dad cries whenever he drinks, which is a lot, and my big brother hardly ever comes home now. My friends say it's all too embarrassing for me and I should just ignore my family and concentrate on my Junior Cert. The problem is I can't concentrate and feel like crying all the time.

A I've the utmost sympathy for your situation. Your family structure is breaking apart and you're finding yourself absorbing all the pressure of home life while trying to focus on schoolwork.

Your mother has made her decision as a grown woman and, while you have your own opinions, it is her decision. If she is happy with her new partner, don't you think that it's better to be supportive of her new life instead of disapproving?

Your dad must seek help for his reliance on alcohol during this difficult time. Please approach the subject of counselling with him, or ask for help from a trusted friend or relative before his problems spiral out of control.

Reach out to your brother and try to coax him into reconnecting with his family at a time when you need to support each other most. Is there anybody you can turn to for extra support -- an aunt or an uncle or a family friend? It's extremely important to speak to a confidante about your feelings as bottling them up inevitably creates problems.

Finally, please try to ignore your friends' comments describing the family problems as "embarrassing", or explain to them that it displays their immaturity and a lack of respect for what you're going through. I wish you luck with everything.

Q Do you think going on a sun holiday for single people aged 18 to 30 is a good idea? My friend is keen to go, as we are both 20 and single, and she thinks it might be a way for us to meet men. I'm afraid they are just drunken orgies in the sun and don't want to spend my time and money on something like that.

A I can't speak from personal experience as I haven't been on such a holiday, but generally their reputation is to be a little wilder than other types of holidays! They may suit some people, but I fear your expectations will be met and it could end up as something you regret. Since you're already hesitating, my advice is not to waste your money on this type of holiday and shop around for something different. There are numerous places to go which combine great nightlife with beautiful beaches and accommodation. You would get the best of both worlds and not feel pressured to go out on the town every night if you didn't feel like it. Please speak to your friend about your concerns, and even approach a good travel agent who will be able to best advise you. Spend your money wisely and don't do anything you feel unsure about.

Q My boyfriend has started smoking and I hate that he smells and tastes of nicotine. I've warned him about the health dangers and what a waste it is to spend his pocket money on cigarettes. But I'm afraid he might drop me if I keep going on about it. We are both 14.

A It sounds as though you are trying your best to urge him to quit smoking but, as I know from experience, it is very difficult to alter some people's bad habits. They must have the desire or willpower to change themselves before they can accept advice from anybody else. Apart from the illegality of his actions, he is potentially causing serious long-term damage to his still-growing body. While I feel it's unlikely that he will dump you over nagging him about smoking, if he does then he's clearly not the right person for you as you're only acting out of genuine concern.

Are his parents aware or does he smoke in secret? My advice is to have a very quiet word with them about his habit and leave the rest up to them to sort out as they see fit.