Meeting someone you met online in person might sound like something that only happens in romantic comedies or scary PSA’s about safety, but new research proves that it’s happening a lot more than some of us may have thought. A new study shows that 30 percent of U.S. teenage girls have met up with someone they met off the Internet at least once in their lives.
The most disturbing part of this research? The majority of girls who put themselves out there online in a sexual way were girls who had suffered some sort of physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Putting provocative images online or presenting yourself as someone who’s just looking for a hookup is super dangerous – it increases your risk of being spotted by gross perverts who are creeping on the Internet looking for vulnerable girls.
If you’ve ever read a terrifying kidnapping story in the newspaper or watched the new MTV show Catfish, the thought of meeting someone through the Internet can seem pretty terrifying. And, yeah, it can be very dangerous… but it’s not always all bad. There are plenty of happy couples out there who met online, through dating sites, Myspace, Facebook, whatever floats their boat. The people you meet online aren’t always 50-year-old pervs disguised as cute 18-year-old’s. I know that a lot of teen girls are going to meet people online no matter how often they’re told that it’s dangerous. But in order to safely meet up with someone you met on the Internet, there are a few things you should always do or keep in mind.
Meet People Through Legit SitesIt's super easy to sign onto Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or any other social media site and find people who you feel like you can connect to - but I wouldn't advise using any of those sites as safe places to meet people. Anyone can make a social media profile and act like they're someone else. And while that's also true for dating sites, it's less likely to happen on something like Match.com, because not only does it take a lot more time and effort, but you also have to pay for it. Source; ShutterStock
Don't Give Out Personal InformationNo matter what site you're using, putting your personal info on the Internet is never a good idea. Don't let people know your address or phone number, don't tell people exactly where you go to school and don't give out the first and last names of all of your friends. It might seem like it's private, but it's not. And if some creepy dude knows where you live, where you go to school and where you hang out, you've basically given him a road map to come find you. Source: ShutterStock
Do A Background CheckThis is exactly where Google comes in handy. Once you meet someone online who seems cool, try to find out as much info about them as possible. Ask them questions, get to know them, Google their name, look for their social media sites. Be your own detective for your own sake... and if you see something shady? You should probably stop talking to them. Source: ShutterStock
Got A Weird Vibe? Get Outta There!If you have a weird feeling that the person you met is lying about something or being kind of creepy, trust that feeling. Go with your gut! It's easy to let a guy sweet talk you, especially when he seems like he's generally an okay dude. It's especially easy to let that happen on the Internet when you're not face-to-face and can't read any body language. But don't let anyone fool you - a pro creep is good at getting what they want. Source: ShutterStock
Get To Know Each Other For A Long TimeIf you start talking to someone on a Tuesday and by Friday he's like, "Hey baby, can we hang out tonight?", don't do it. True story: I met my boyfriend after he put a note on my car in a parking lot with his phone number telling me to call him. We texted and talked on the phone for almost a month before I agreed to meet up with him. Obviously, he wasn't a weirdo, but I don't regret waiting that long. It allowed me to really get to know him and feel comfortable with the idea of meeting him in person. Source: ShutterStock
Tell Someone Where You're GoingNever meet up with someone you met online without letting a friend or two know what you're doing, where you're going and who you're meeting. And keep in contact with that friend throughout the entire date or hangout sesh - text them every once in a while to let them know you're okay and have a code word for if something goes wrong. Also make sure to have an excuse ready if you feel like you need to get out of there. Source: ShutterStock
Meet In A Public PlaceIdeally, it would be great if you bought a friend along with you the first time you meet up with someone. Strength in numbers, you know? But if you're not into that idea, then at least make sure you meet up in a public place. Never, ever go to someone's house or invite them to yours. And don't let the guy pick you up either - have someone drop you off or drive yourself. Go to the movies or out to dinner, anywhere where there's a lot of people. Source: ShutterStock
Have you ever met someone online? Would you ever? Do you know anyone who did? What tips do you have? Tell us in the comments!