Information » People in Your Life » Communication and When Things Go Wrong » Social Networking
The Internet can be a great way of meeting new people and making friends who share similar interests.
Some people find it easier to communicate online because it isn't face-to-face. They can be open and honest without fear of being judged, so friendships can easily develop online.
However, not all the people you talk to might be telling the truth and you need to be cautious when talking online.
- There are a small number of paedophiles (child sex offenders) posing as young people in chat rooms in order to "groom" young people for sexual abuse. These people will usually pose as a young person themselves with similar interests to you, although they are usually grown men, to try and get the person they are befriending to meet them
- In the past three years alone, 25 young people (22 girls and three boys) have reported being raped or sexually assaulted by people they have gone to meet from the Internet. This figure could be higher because some young people don't report the incidents because they are too embarrassed or afraid
- If you are ever shown any sexually explicit material on the Internet or are being talked to inappropriately, you should tell your parents and contact the police. Don't be embarrassed. It is not your fault and you won't be in any trouble
- Never give out your telephone or mobile number, home address or the name of your school under any circumstance
- Try and stay out of private chat rooms where you have one-to-one conversations. By staying within the main public chat room, others can see your conversation and you are safer
- Remember, the people you talk to are strangers, no matter how often you talk to them, so never give out too many personal details
- If you decide to meet an online friend, NEVER EVER GO ALONE. Always take an adult with you for your own safety, even if you are not worried. Don't be embarrassed to protect your self - if your new friend is genuine, they won't mind. Remember, this person is still a stranger to you so stay safe at all times
- It doesn't matter how old you are, you could still be in danger, so ALWAYS take someone with you
- ALWAYS TAKE SOMEONE WITH YOU. They can watch from a distance to check you are safe and happy
- Always meet in a public place, like a restaurant or bowling alley for example. Never meet at someone's house or let them pick you up from yours
- Never give them your home address or mobile number
- Always tell others where you are going and what time you are due back
- Remind people of your mobile number before you leave
- The Internet can be a great way to meet new people but remember people may not always be who they say they are, so stay safe online
There are ways to protect yourself when you are talking to people online:
Online dating has become more popular recently and can be a good way to meet potential partners, especially if you are shy or very busy. Remember even though you might be meeting someone through an online agency, they are still a stranger and you must still think of your own safety at all times.
There are a few precautions you can take before your date: