Love Puppies --not cute and scary obsession in teens and tweens
A version of this post was originally published on Suite101, in 2005. Originally titled Love Puppy, cute but terrifying behaviour among tweens and teens
Many young teens and even 10-12-year-olds, have experienced what it's like to have someone obsessed in love, following them, waiting for them, and fawning over them. Like puppies, these enamored crushes are not an uncommon experience.
They are uncomfortable and awkward and many people have no idea at all how to handle them, or why they can become so dangerous.
While it's flattering to be the object of this kind of attention, and can be seen by many adults as cute, Love Puppy behaviour is a chilling danger of tween life. Disturbingly, the trend involves as many girls stalking boys as there are boys stalking girls and, of course, girls stalking girls and boys stalking boys.
Watch for the signs, take them seriously and act to end this behaviour.
No child should ever deal with this alone, but often parents and other adults minimize the risk involved. It's too often spoken of as cute and sweet, being followed by someone so young, so nerdy, so persistent... so needy. This makes it hard for tweens to be aware of how disturbing and dangerous it is.
Recognize it as the stalking behaviour it is
- frequent phone calls, many in a short period of time
- following home, from home to school, to other activities
- hanging around outside the house, after school, at lockers, outside activities
- online obsessive Facebook or Instagram shrines to the victim, declarations of undying love, persistent instant messaging and cyberstalking
- a gross and embarrassing willingness to be humiliated in order to become acceptable to the beloved, open to anything to stay close
- standing too close, particularly from behind
- never having anything to do but just be wherever the object of their obsession is
It is vitally important to understand that even brief eye contact is encouraging to these needy people.
Yes, they need a lot.
It is not a child's job, nor is it within a child's capacity, to meet the profound needs of these people. It is not possible for any victim of stalking to meet the needs of the stalker, and victims must be discouraged from trying.
Stalkers do not understand tactful avoidance as a request to be left alone. It is not possible to stop them subtly or without hurting their feelings.
Turn Them Off: 5 steps for victims to take before it goes too far
- never answer any question with anything like a 'yes' answer, avoid the question, ignore it, change the subject, anything that will avoid saying anything that sounds like 'yes.'
- face away from the stalker--shoulders and feet turned away are powerful body language cues, avoid eye contact, do not voluntarily touch them and do not lean toward them
- freely use 'rude' behaviour like shouting 'go away' or 'no' loudly and directly at them
- tell an adult who understands the gravity of the situation and request their direct involvement
- threats of legal action may need to be made before the persistence fades
If It Goes Too Far, or the above 5 steps don't stop it
- take it seriously, this can become very dangerous very rapidly
- enlist the assistance of everyone possible: friends, big brothers and sisters, adults from within the school, church or family; let everyone know this person is not to have any access to the victim or any contact information
- block the phone number or monitor the line
- internet remove as a 'friend' and ask friends to do the same, remove and block comments from Facebook, Instagram etc., change email addresses, block the sender and set privacy to automatically block unknown instant messaging contacts, friend requests and to be invisible to 'friends of friends'
- report abuse to websites involved, they care about the safety of their communities
- document what happens (time, date, screenshots, incident) and report it to the police
It is vital to take it seriously when a tween complains while giggling uncomfortably about a classmate's unwanted attention. Giggling is often more about anxiety than enjoyment.
All of the adults who are responsible for children need to help kids handle this problem before it becomes a tragedy.
Tweens who don't find out how to deal with this are at risk, but twenty-somethings who don't know what to do about the unwanted advances of practiced and disturbed stalkers are in persistent mortal danger.
Love Puppies are cute, briefly. Then they're disturbing, shocking and quite dangerous.