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 - whether it's through Twitter or Tinder.
It can 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 generally avoid giving out personal information up front, like your last name and your address, you should be honest about your interests - and turn offs! You probably 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 really up to you what you share and how much you share with someone online when you don’t really know the person. Using a profile photo like you would on Facebook is fine if you’re not worried about being completely anonymous, but be cautious about how many images you share and where they might have been taken.
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 new online friend is genuine, is a quick Google search, which will allow you to see if they have other social media profiles and if you search their profile photo - where the image has been used before.
Simply save the image, go to Google Images and drag and drop the photo into the search box.
Yeah, it might feel a little stalker-ish, but if you’re not sure if your conversational counterpart is being truthful about their identity, then it’s best to check out that the photo hasn’t been circulating online under someone else's name.
If someone is threatening to pass around anything you have sent them and making requests of you, this should not be tolerated by you or anyone else.
In Scotland, the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 means that people who share intimate images of others, without consent, could face up to five years in prison.
The first thing you should do if you feel you are being blackmailed or exploited, is tell someone you trust and approach the authorities. 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 as it could be used as evidence later on.
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.
Find out more about revenge porn and how to remove unwanted images of you online.
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 always put your safety first, think about how much of yourself you’re putting out there and if you're ok with it or not - and, of course - 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?
Find out more about online safety with 'Digi, Aye?'.