Cyberdating: Caution advised

In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love

– Locksley Hall, Alfred, Lord Tennyson

New love can happen in person, through the mail, and in these modern times, online. It’s very important to consider your safety, however, because the Internet is all it seems and much more.

It’s much easier to judge someone you meet when they are face to face with you. Your eyes see the person, how they dress and take care of themselves, what kind of personality they have. But without the facial expression, body language, context and voice tones, you tend to make your judgments based on how you perceive the world. As recording artist Kelly Clarkson sings, “we all have a dark side,” but some people have a dangerous side.

There are some Internet safety rules to go by. The first one is, no teen should cyber date, advises Why?

The next rule (for the 18 and older crowd) explains, “Do not believe everything you read on the Internet.”

An individual can know only what the other person says. People lie. It’s that simple. You don’t know if that photograph they send you is really them or someone else. You don’t know if it’s a recent photo or an older one. There are predators “out there” who are looking for to exploit.

The next rule is, “don’t share personal information about yourself with strangers.” Just because they tell you their name and talk to you doesn’t mean they are your friends. It takes time to build a friendship.

Stick to the rules until you are sure the person you are talking with is for real. While romance may be thrilling, it can suddenly become chilling when you become a victim of cyber stalking. That old adage to “be friends first” is a good one to build trust. Don’t rush into anything.

When you do decide it’s time to meet the person that first time, there are some things you should do. Take a friend with you. Don’t go alone. Go to a public place. Stay there.

Make sure another friend knows where you are going, when you expect to return, and where to find all the emails you’ve saved from this person you are meeting so if something goes wrong, those messages can help find the person you are talking with. Better to have and not need than to need and not have that information.

Does that seem like a lot of work if you’re just going to meet someone? He or she may be very trustworthy, but you don’t know that.

Wearing your rose-colored glasses that tell you the world is a perfect place and nobody is going to hurt you, to think otherwise is just, well, paranoid, you think. But you may not be looking clearly and with your eyes wide open. Your safety is worth a little extra effort.

Report any attacks or threats to law enforcement. Even if that person eventually walks away or you leave him or her, they will move on to someone else. Don’t be embarrassed to insist on following the rules you set up ahead of time.

Someone who really cares for you will not try to force you or shame you into doing something you don’t want to do.

Next time: Cyber dating abuse with teens.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities. For more information about our education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.