Do's and don'ts of cyber dating

Posted 11/7/19

Today's digital technology is convenient. Most everyone has a computer, even smartphones and touchpads, to help quickly get us onto the internet and interacting with others.

But the ease of the internet comes with dangers.

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Do's and don'ts of cyber dating

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Today's digital technology is convenient. Most everyone has a computer, even smartphones and touchpads, to help quickly get us onto the internet and interacting with others.

But the ease of the internet comes with dangers. Let's take cyber dating, for example. Cyber dating - meeting a potential partner online through a dating website or app - can be a safe way to learn about a person "at a distance" before deciding to meet face-to-face.

But it isn't always safe. In fact, it's a common way for sexual predators to connect to their next victims. Their strategy usually starts out with compliments, followed by a seemingly innocent request, such as "Why don't you send me a photo of yourself?" Or, "What is your house (or apartment) like?" We can see where this potentially is going.

Recently a family member of mine went online to find a potential partner. Like many, they were naïve. What they thought was a great match with a "law enforcement officer" who had sent a lovely (fake) photo, turned out to be an elaborate setup that ended with a pedophile offering a large sum of money to have sex with their nine-year-old daughter. Too late, they realized they had given personal information that left them and their daughter vulnerable.

Cyber dating, like any form of dating, needs to be approached with safety in mind. PSA is a company publishing domestic and sexual violence prevention and awareness materials. Here are some of PSA's do's and don'ts for when you are seeking a relationship online:

• Don't believe everything you read! Anything can be fabricated on the internet. That blond, blue-eyed 26-year-old woman could actually be a 55-year-old man with a history of stalking.

• Don't ever put personal information in your profile or share it with a potential date. Your full name, address, phone number, place of employment, personal or work email, etc., should remain private until you know the other person very well. Choose an online dating service where you can remain anonymous and set up a separate email account solely for cyber dating.

• Do start with a phone call. Use a public phone to protect your home or cell number from caller ID.

• Do meet for the first time in a public place. Plan and agree on a short first meeting, such as coffee or a soda in a popular venue and bring a friend along, if possible. If the person insists on meeting you alone, don't go.

• Do extend your meeting into a dinner or other social engagement if you hit it off, but only if it takes place in a public area. Do pay your own way, as to avoid any possible expectations of quid pro quo.

• Don't go home or to any private location with the other person, and don't allow them to drive you anywhere.

• If someone makes you uncomfortable, do report them to your online dating service immediately.

Online dating sites promise to find an ideal match for us in no time at all. The cultural expectation of intimate partnership for everyone, coupled with the excitement of meeting someone new, can combine to lower our commonsense guards against abusive or dangerous people.

Bottom line: The track record of online dating is generally safe - if you pay attention to your instincts and are cautious. Trust your gut - if something feels wrong, it probably is.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence (CAV) which offers free confidential support and assistance for child and adult survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and child/elder abuse; community and school violence prevention programs; reeducation BIP groups for people using domestic violence power and control in their relationships; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and a community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services, call CAV's 24-hour hotline at (575) 758-9888 or visit TaosCAV.org.

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