Over the years online dating has become more and more common. There are so many apps and websites that offer a wide range of features, preferences, and target populations. With online dating, there are risks to consider. Here are some safety tips to consider when dating online:
Before meeting in person
- Be mindful of the personal information you are sharing online and with the person you are talking with. At the beginning, don’t share details about where you live, work, or places you frequent. Try to stick to messaging on the app or website instead of giving out your personal cell phone number.
- Use a unique phone number. All initial communication should stay on the app. However, at some point you may want to exchange phone numbers. There are many apps, such as TextNow, that you can download that will give you a new number that can be used just like your regular number.
- Block and report users that are suspicious, act inappropriately, or make you feel uncomfortable.
- Do some online digging. Look up your potential date on various social media platforms. Do the details of their accounts match with what they have told you about themselves? This can also be helpful to determine if you are being catfished.
- Wait until you are comfortable. Do not meet with the person you are talking with until you are comfortable. Don’t feel pressured to meet in person before you are ready. The right person will respect your boundaries and give you the time you need to feel comfortable.
- Video chat before meeting in person. Consider planning some virtual dates to give opportunities to grow an emotional connection while still being low-risk.
- Do not share any photos that you don’t feel comfortable with them being online. There is always the risk that the person you are talking to can share them with others and/or post them online.
When meeting in person
- Tell someone where you are going for your date and who you are meeting. You can also share your phone location with someone you trust during your date.
- Meet in a public place. Do not meet your date for the first time at your or their home.
- Don’t rely on your date for transportation. Meet your date at the location instead of them picking you up at your home.
- Limit alcohol. You may want to have a drink on your date, be sure to stick to your limits. Being intoxicated can put yourself at risk and impact consent. If you do have a drink make sure not to leave your drink unintended, even if you just leave to use the washroom. When in doubt, suggest a coffee date for the first date.
- Stick to what you are comfortable with. It is important not to feel pressured by your date. Just because your date is drinking or drinking more than you, doesn’t mean you have to. Just because you went on a date, that doesn’t mean you owe your date anything, especially anything physical or sexual. Stick to your boundaries and comfort level.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, trust yourself. You are not obligated to stay with someone you are not comfortable with. If you are feeling uncomfortable or unsafe you can leave, cut off communication and/or block them if you deem this necessary. Your safety is the most important thing.
-Cassie Cole, BSW, RSW