By Maddon Sime
The internet is an amazing way to connect with people; it can be fantastic for making friends, finding roommates, and even starting romantic relationships. However due to the anonymous nature of the internet, taking the step towards meeting people in person can be dangerous, and even deadly.
There are several ways to stay safe while talking to people online that can protect you from potential future risks. These tips are good practice in general, even if you don’t plan on meeting the individual. For starters, never disclose personal information to anyone you don’t know in real life, even if they seem trustworthy. Personal information includes your address, your workplace/school, your phone number, your passwords, or a photograph of yourself. Never share financial information, like bank accounts, credit cards, and especially your social security number with anyone online.
There is a fine line when it comes to meeting internet strangers in person, but it is one that is essential to your personal safety. It can often feel pointless to only talk to someone online, but it’s important not to rush into an in-person meeting too quickly. Before meeting someone in person, dive into their profile and online presence. A simple google search can reveal a lot about a person, and possibly bring light to some major red flags. Additionally, observe where this person asks you to meet. If they insist on a private or unfamiliar location, absolutely do not meet up with them.
If, after taking the proper precautions, you plan on meeting an online stranger in person, there are several things you can do to make sure the encounter is safe. Always tell a trusted person where you are going (or better yet, bring your friend along), and have them track your phone with an app like Life360 or Findmyfriends. Set up a safeword via text or app with this trusted person so you can communicate that you feel unsafe without arousing suspicion. Have them call you at a specific time during the meeting to confirm they are safe (again, use code words or phrases). Make sure to meet in a public, familiar place, and stay sober and aware of your surroundings. If you will be drinking, make sure to never leave your drink alone or out of sight. When you enter the meeting place, make note of any emergency exits or your safest route out in case you need to escape. If you feel uneasy at any time during the encounter, trust your gut and leave. It is always better to appear rude to a stranger than put yourself in danger.
- Consider a time when you were uncomfortable while talking to someone on an app or online game. What did you do?
- Has the internet ever helped you meet someone who has become a part of your life? How did you achieve this safely?
- What social media apps or websites do you use to connect with people? Are there certain sites you don’t trust, and why?
- What is a place where you would feel comfortable meeting someone from online? What about this place makes you feel comfortable?
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