For those of us who haven't grown up with the internet, online dating danger can seem overwhelming due to the fear of the unknown. For our children who have had the internet introduced in Kindergarten the opposite is true. They seem to be oblivious to online dating danger. Sadly both perspectives may yield a very negative (and sometimes tragic) result.
With headlines about the danger commonly associated with meeting people via the internet it is no wonder that those of us who are 30 something and above still hold onto the outdated myth that online dating must be dangerous. For those who are under the age of 30 nearly all fear is absent because of the comfort that comes along with the familiarity of this technology. The truth is that the internet is here to stay. Without the ability to understand how to properly utilize and navigate this powerful tool, yes danger is always present. However, with the application of a little common sense and precautionary measures online dating is very safe and can be tremendous fun.
Common Sense Online Dating Tips to Avoid Danger:
1. Opt to use specific online dating sites as opposed to social networking sites such as Facebook or Myspace as there are no safeguards that protect your personal information with social networking sites. Once you "friend" a stranger you are sharing personal information as well as the personal information of your family and friends. Online dating sites have safeguards to protect such sensitive information whereas the social networking sites don't necessarily have such options. And even when they do, because of the rapid changes that are ever-present the safeguards that worked yesterday don't always work today.
2. Do not share personal information until you are satisfied that the other person's prime directive isn't to do you any harm. Use email aliases and have IM chats that do not disclose your real name. Google is an extremely powerful tool to check a party out if they do have an internet presence once you have gotten to the step where you share personal information. Have cell phone conversations (which are also not traceable to your home address) asking direct specific questions that will expose obvious misrepresentations. If you still live at home with your parents always, always have that party talk to your parents or at the very least talk about the people you are meeting online with an adult you trust. Even if you are an adult living on your own it is always good to talk about your dating prospects with someone whose judgment you respect. I know that sounds incredibly dorky but having your parents and/or friends help you screen isn't such a bad idea especially when it comes to avoiding online dating danger.
3. Always tell someone close to you before you decide to meet someone from an online dating site or any place else on the internet ie: Facebook or Myspace. Give that person (or persons) all the specifics of where you are meeting, time, date, the name and cell phone number of the party you are meeting, etc.
4. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged before you go on the actual date.
5. It is always safest to have your initial meetings out in the open in busy public places.
6. Never ever give another party sensitive personal information that could harm you in any way ie explicit images that would put you in a compromising situation. You might think those pictures of you taking a hit from a bong with your friends or you with your skirt riding up as you bent over at last year's office Christmas party are sexy or funny but I promise you, if you choose to share this type of information online (or via cell phone or email attachment) it will most certainly come back to haunt you when you least expect it. Not to mention that this will most likely send a negative message to someone you've never even met. I do believe that many of us had made poor choices during our misspent youth, however, there was no technology present to memorialize those behaviors. Whether you are older or younger, either way this is a tremendous "no-no" and one that should be avoided at all costs.
7. Be careful during webcam chats as it is possible for the other party to "save" what you are doing and/or saying. Cybersex and sexting might seem exciting and/or erotic but no good will ever come from volunteering such to someone that you don't know. As a matter of fact it isn't a very good idea to engage in this type of behavior with someone that you feel you know very well as relationships of all sorts sour all the time. Just use the rule of thumb that if you wouldn't want your mother/father/children to see it chances are that nobody else should be seeing it either.
8. If somebody seems too eager to exchange very sensitive/personal information too quickly or they just seem too good to be true, chances are they are NOT someone that you would want to meet in real time.
Avoiding online dating danger isn't rocket science. It is really just the application of common sense combined with a firm grasp of technology. Arm yourself with information so you can have safe, positive dating experiences.