Sometimes it’s easier to meet people online. But trust your gut – things aren’t always what they seem.Online dating sites or chat for teens (or adults, if you’re over 18) can be a way to meet new people outside the usual crowd at school, work or uni. You can find and talk to people who like the same bands, movies and things that you do.
In some ways, meeting people online is similar to meeting people in real life. But online relationships can be different – and more dangerous – than meeting people in real life.
Talking and flirting online: when it’s the same as real life
- You can feel really attracted to someone.
- You can joke around and have fun together.
- You can feel like you’re getting to know them over time.
- If you’re crushing on them, you might do things you normally wouldn’t, things that you might regret later.
When it’s different to real life
- It can feel more intense and ‘special’ because you might talk more often or share more personal stuff than you would in real life.
- You can feel more confident, funny and smarter chatting online than you feel in person.
- If you haven’t met them, they could be really different in person to how they are online.
- Things can move fast – one minute you’re flirting, the next minute you’re pressured for a sexy pic or to webcam yourself.
Really different (and more risky) than real life
- The other person can lie about who they are and their age.
- They could talk to you in a way that you don’t like.
- You could be asked do things on webcam or with your camera that feel wrong or uncomfortable.
- They could take your photos or private things you’ve written and send them to others, or post them on websites.
- They could impersonate you by using your personal information online or setting up a fake profile of you.
- They could harass you by messaging you every time you go online or by sending threatening messages.
Tips for online safety
Trust your gut. If something about them doesn’t add up, drop all contact.
Don’t tell them your address, phone number, school, sports teams or the after-school stuff you do or places you go to a lot.
Don’t accept Facebook or MySpace friend requests from people you’re not sure about.
If you’re really into someone you’ve met online, talk about them with friends and family. Sometimes it is easier for someone you know well to tell if something suspicious is going on than it is for you – particularly if you are in the midst of a situation. If things start feeling funny or you’re not sure what’s going on, stop talking with them.
Meeting them face to face
- Tell your parents and/or other people.
- Get someone you trust to go with you – a close friend is good.
- Always meet in a public place, like a cafe, a shopping centre.
- Don’t get a ride with them or go to their place.
What to do if things get weird
Will I get into trouble if I report someone?
NO. You won’t be in trouble, whatever you have done.
Creepy adults can be really good at making you feel guilty or scared if you report something. They might try to make you keep quiet about what has happened. Reporting is the best way to make them stop.