Question from Joanie
Why is an online relationship considered unsafe?
Good question. When you are underage and you meet people in real life, you can get a sense that you are age appropriate for one another.
You also receive all kinds of additional information that helps you recognize whether or not you are in any danger. Your instincts kick in. If something doesn’t feel right, you call your folks, you walk away, you don’t allow yourself to be alone with the person. You trust your gut.
When you meet someone online, the data available to your instincts shrinks down to about 5%. With your guard down in this way you are responding only to the cute photo, the sweet words and the rush of love that engulfs you when you feel adored, admired, understood and appreciated.
However, you have no way of knowing if you are talking to a nice kid your age or if you are communicating with an adult online predator who has lifted that photo and is lying about their age, their gender, their location, really anything.
This person could be tricking you into falling in love and manipulating you into believing that they are the only person in the world who truly gets you. The real danger comes when you feel so in love with this person and so alienated by your own family that you agree to meet the person by yourself, in real life.
You may say that you would never do that but what if this person talks you into sending nude photos and then you learn that they are not who they claimed to be? You don’t know where those photos are going. You just know that they are out there and the feeling of betrayal, vulnerability and fear will be overwhelming.
You can make friends online but once you agree to a “dating” type of situation, an online predator will begin asking you innocent questions that will quickly lead to inquiring about boyfriends or girlfriends and wondering if you’ve ever kissed anyone … the conversation will often then turn sexual and you, believing that this is love may share private and intimate thoughts and feelings.
You can’t take those words back. You can’t take any inappropriate photos back.
Online space is much like the whole wide world. A child has not yet gained the judgment to be out there on her own. At 18, you are no longer a minor and you are therefore less vulnerable.
Of course you should still never meet anyone in real life unless you bring a friend or meet in the daytime at a very public place. Never EVER let a real life stranger pick you up in a vehicle!
Online dating remains dangerous at every age but there are precautions that adults will take and red flags that children are not yet capable of seeing or heeding.
Please be careful. Your …….