Dangers of online dating
As young people in the digital era, many of us prefer making connections and meeting new people through social media. Being online means you can always make good friends, or even find love, anywhere in the world - which is great to know if you’re someone who is introverted and doesn’t socialise with others much. But as convenient and exciting as it seems, the reality is that it can be really dangerous. So if you’re interested in meeting someone online, here are a few things to remember.
People over the internet are not always honest about who they are so you might get cat-fished (which is term used for when someone lures you into a relationship using a fake online persona). Another thing is, they might be in a real life relationship - and you’ll find yourself in a situationship or being a side dish. Not only will you be disappointed that the love of your life is really not Justin Bieber or Ariana Grande, but you might also feel betrayed and have to deal with a broken heart.
To avoid being scammed by a fake profile, try downloading the profile picture of the person and doing a Google image search. If the person is using someone else’s picture, you’ll be able to see by the results you find. It’s also a red flag if you’ve been “dating” someone for a long time and they refuse to meet in person - it could mean that they are not really who they say they are.
Online safety and security is not always guaranteed in the cyber world. As much as you can feel like you trust your online partner, you may also be a victim of scamming and identity theft. No matter how hard you fall for someone online, don’t give them your personal details like bank account details, home address, ID number, personal pictures or anything else that gives someone personal access to your life - especially if you’ve never met them and built trust over time. People often pretend to want a relationship online and then start to ask you for things like money or nude pictures. Do not send any of these.
With the rise in human trafficking, it’s not always safe for you to be meeting up with strangers. And guess what? Traffickers like using social media to lure young people into dangerous situations that might get them trafficked. This isn’t to scare you away from meeting up with people, it’s just important for you to understand the risks and learn how to be safe. Be suspicious if your new lover offers you a job or wants you to model for them. Job offers online are the most popular ways to lure people into being trafficked.
Risk of getting sexually assaulted
You won’t know a person’s true intentions, especially if you met them online so it’s easy you to fall victim to any crime, including sexual assault. Many sex offenders seek their next victims online and often pretend to be young in order lure people much younger than them. If you’re under age, do not meet someone you met online alone, under any circumstance.
If you decide to meet up with a new friend or partner you met online, here are tips for doing so safely:
- Always meet in a public place
- Always tell someone where you’re going and who you’re meeting with
- Never leave your drink unattended because you risk being spiked
- Always ask a friend or an adult to go with you
- Never give anyone your personal information like your home address or your school name
- Always share your location with your loved one
I’m not saying that social media is all bad, but you have to be really careful with how you interact with people that you meet online.
Read these articles to learn more about online relationships.
If have been in an unsafe situation or know someone who was after meeting someone online, you can contact the following numbers for help:
South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line: 0800 222 777
Department of Social Development – Helpline: 0800 220 250
Missing Children South Africa: 072 647 7464
Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).
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