As dating services and apps become more and more popular for young people, we give you a run down on how to safely meet like-minded people online.
Although a few years ago the prospect of using an online dating service or app may have been a horrifying prospect, it turns out that with new organisations creating innovative ways to meet people, it can actually be a lot of fun - so long as you’re being safe and conscientious!
Just Do You
The most important thing you can do is be yourself. Although you should avoid giving out personal information, like your last name and your address, you should be honest about your interests. You wouldn’t be pleased if the person chatting you up turned out to have a completely different personality to what you’d seen online!
It’s up to you what you share with someone online when you don’t really know the person. Using a profile photo from Facebook is fine if you’re not worried about being completely anonymous, but be cautious about how many images you share.
If someone is asking you to send them more photos of yourself - whether compromising or not - try to really think about what you’re sending, who’s going to see them and whether or not you’re easily identifiable in the photos.
The Check Out
Things are going well, but in the back of your mind there’s a sense of ‘are they really who they say they are?’
One thing you can do to check your online mate is genuine is a quick Google image search, which will allow you to see where their profile image has been used before. Simply save the image, go to Google Images and drag and drop the photo into the search box.
Yes, it might feel a little stalker-ish, but if you’re not sure your conversational partner is being truthful about their identity then it’s best to check out that the photo hasn’t been circulating online under a multitude of different names.
If someone is threatening to pass around anything you have sent them and making requests of you, this is blackmail and should not be tolerated by you or anyone else. Blackmail is illegal.... this is defined as Exploitation.
The first thing you should do if you feel you are being blackmailed or exploited, is tell someone of authority. No matter how embarrassed you might feel, or worried about their reaction, telling the police, your parents, a teacher or anyone else you can trust is essential in stopping whoever might be trying to threaten you.
Save a copy or take a screenshot of any harassing or threatening messages the person has sent you.
You can also contact your mobile phone service provider or ask your parent or guardian to contact your internet service provider, who will be able to block whoever is bothering you from contacting your phone or track down the IP address of the person harassing you.
You should also block or report any harassing messages received on an app or site to the administrator who will be able to monitor the person's account and possibly remove it.
Meeting someone online for the first time can be quite exciting as you can really get to know them without the pressure of being face-to-face and struggling to find words.
However, if it comes to actually meeting someone in person for the first time, remember to arrange to meet in a public place - such as a train station or town centre, be wary of going anywhere alone with them on the first meeting, let someone know where you're going and who you are meeting, and keep your phone on you fully charged.
Make sure you put safety first, think about how much of yourself you’re putting out there and have fun.
There are a few things to consider when chatting someone up online.
- Are you able to set boundaries when it comes to revealing information about yourself?
- Are you exchanging messages with somebody you can trust not to share them with anyone else?
- How bothered would you be if a parent, guardian, teacher or even a future employer, came across the messages you’re sending?
- If you are going to send an image or video of yourself, are you easily identifiable within it? e.g: Would someone who saw it know/be able to tell that it was you?