Youth Blog—Ask an Expert: Is It Safe to Hang out with People I Meet Online?
In our “Ask an Expert” blog series, researchers from the IMPACT Program answer questions from LGBTQ youth. This month’s expert is Dr. Michael E. Newcomb, Assistant Professor with the IMPACT Program.
Question: Is it safe to hang out with people I meet online?
Answer: Lots of people meet people online or on apps to date or hook up. Meeting people online can be a great way to find friends or dates. Social media and dating sites are quick and easy places to meet people, and they take some of the fear out of talking to someone face-to-face for the first time!
But sometimes it’s hard to know if it’s safe to meet up with people you meet online. You don’t really know them, so it can be scary. Here are a few tips to help you out when you are meeting people online:
- First, relax! Have fun! Be yourself!
- Choose a public place to meet up where you know there will be other people around. Coffee shops, restaurants, and busy parks are good places. In the rare case that the person you’re meeting is dangerous, you will be much safer with other people around.
- Plan for a short date. Tell the person ahead of time that you have to be somewhere else later that day so you have an excuse to leave if you don’t feel comfortable. If you are having a good time, you can always tell the person you’re going to skip your other fake plans!
- Listen to your gut feelings. You know how you get that weird feeling in your stomach when something bad is about to happen? If you feel that way when hanging out with the person you met online, find a way to leave. You might be wrong, and the person may be perfectly nice. But your gut feelings are usually correct. And it’s always best to be safe.
- Be prepared with a few good excuses for why you might need to cut the date short, in case you don’t like the person or don’t feel safe. Here are some examples: “I have to meet up with a friend soon.” “I have to go get ready for work.” “My parents are expecting me home soon.” If the persons tries to convince you to stay, just stay firm and repeat why you need to leave.
- Let a friend know about the date, and text them to let them know how it’s going. If you feel uncomfortable, they can help you end the date.
- If you think you’re in immediate danger, don’t be afraid to call the police.
Most people you will meet online are not dangerous. They are there for the same reasons you are – to meet people and maybe find someone to date! You might not get along with everyone you meet. But it can be a lot of fun getting to know different people. Many people make good friends online or even find a boyfriend or girlfriend. As long as you make sure to stay safe, get out there and have fun!
Check out this tip sheet about staying safe while using Grindr. Grindr is an app for guys to meet other guys, but the tips they provide apply to all people.
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Featured image credit: Janet Lackey, “rainbow,” August 18, 2011.
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