Dear Ms. Tech,
I’ve been on Facebook for about 4 months now. I have lots of friends. Lots of them are people that I’ve never met. One guy is someone I’ve been chatting to for a while, and now he says he wants to meet up. He says I’m really beautiful and he knows that we’d be a great match. I’m afraid to tell my friends or my parents because they’ll say it’s dangerous. But I think I’ve found my future husband, and I really want to meet him in real life! What should I do?
Confused but Curious
Dear Confused but Curious,
It’s a dangerous game to meet up with someone you only know online. It’s easy for people to pretend to be something they are not online. You don’t know if the photos and stories somebody shares online are real.
You might feel comfortable sharing your secrets much faster online than you would in person. This makes you vulnerable to being tricked or manipulated. If you have developed feelings for someone that you met online, he may be able to convince you to meet him privately somewhere, where he might take advantage of you or somehow harm you.
You don’t get something for nothing, as they say. So if someone online promises you something that seems too good to be true, or compliments you a lot, be wary. They might be sweet talking you with the goal of getting something. The boy you think you are in love with may actually even be an older man, using the Internet to seduce young girls.
If you DO decide to meet someone, be sure to take a friend with you. Never go alone. Meet the person in a public place where there are lots of people around who could help you if needed. Never get in a car or public transportation with him. Don’t reveal where you live. And never be alone with him until you have checked with people from your community that he is who he says he is and that he is someone who is safe to be with.
Be careful, I care about you!