Have you ever wished you lived somewhere else because all the guys at your school are either weird or taken? Have you thought about how much easier it would be to get a girlfriend if you didn't have to actually talk to her in person? Well, you're not alone. Some people prefer to turn to the internet to find that special someone. Using the internet can be a great way to meet new people and maintain a long-distance relationship.
Dating someone online does have its risks and challenges, so here are a few things to keep in mind:
Catfishing occurs when a person assumes a fake identity online, usually to enter into a romantic relationship with another person, and then proceeds to scam that person for money, personal information, or gifts. Sometimes catfish are in it for the material reward; other times they just enjoy the power-trip they get from deceiving other people and toying with their emotions.
In either case, these people are bad news! Be aware of the signs that someone is faking their identity online (always makes excuses for not calling, video-chatting, or meeting face to face; asks for emergency money or personal information), and don't give out information that could be used to hurt you (address, school, passwords, SSN, etc.).
Even if the person you are dating online isn't faking their identity, you still shouldn't blindly trust them with personal stuff. Once you send information electronically, it's out there forever. Who knows where it will end up? Will someone access their computer or phone and share your pictures or messages all over school? Or will they threaten to share information with others, especially if you break up?
Keep in mind if you are a minor and send inappropriate photos of yourself to someone electronically it can be considered child pornography, which is illegal to possess no matter what. So, be careful what you share. The communication might not be as private as you think!
Some online friendships reach a point where the two people involved decide to take the relationship to the next level and meet in person. Even if you've developed a close relationship online, meeting someone in person could be dangerous.
What can you do to be safe? First, don't ever agree to meet up until you've gotten solid proof to make sure they are who they say they are. Next, meet up in a public place and bring a friend or multiple friends along. Don't ditch your friend to go off in private no matter how charming your date seems, and let other people know where you are at all times. Also, don't hide the relationship from your parents. Keep them updated and give them examples of how you're being safe.
It's a Relationship
When getting to know someone online start out as friends, and be honest while developing your relationship. It can be easy to get caught up in the fantasy and thrill of connecting with someone online. So if you become too consumed with the relationship, limit the amount of contact that you have with them. Keep in mind the things that make relationships healthy, enjoyable…and safe. Don't hesitate to end a relationship that makes you uncomfortable or becomes abusive.