Here are some ways to stay safe in your relationships, both in real life and online.
Safety Tips for Online Interactions
Whether using social media, instant messaging, or a gaming app:
Set appropriate privacy and location settings on your devices and in apps (learn how here).
- WHY? If you’re adding strangers to your apps, they can track where you are and potentially plan to find you in person.
- For example, in Snapchat, strangers you add will be able to see you on SnapMap.
Don’t share lots of personal information (things like your age, where you go to school, names of your friends, or specific hobbies).
- WHY? Exploiters look for any information they can use to identify you. The more they know about you, the easier it is for someone to pretend you share common interests to gain your friendship, or locate you in real life.
Never share nude or suggestive photos of yourself over the internet.
- WHY? Pictures you post can be saved or screenshot by anyone who follows you.
- Exploiters can use these pictures as leverage to make you send more photos to them.
- Once an image is saved or screenshot by someone else, you lose control over where that image ends up and who can see it. It will be out there forever, and it can resurface and cause trouble even many years later.
If you post photos, be careful of any identifying information that might be visible.
- For example, avoid posting photos with distinctive backdrops or visible building addresses (i.e. a fire hall or police station with an identifying number).
- Avoid posting photos wearing a school jersey or clothing that reveals details about you.
- WHY? If an exploiter notices that they live close to you, they may try to find you at places where you often visit or hang out.
Set your account to private and use a private account appropriately.
Don’t add just anyone who requests it.
Never add someone that you haven’t met in real life.
- WHY? If your account is private, random strangers can’t see the content you share. This does a lot to reduce the chances of you being lured or groomed by an exploiter.
- We can never really know who is behind the screen, even if an online friendship or relationship feels very real and authentic.
- Exploiters are very good at manipulation and will do everything they can to make themselves seem safe and trustworthy.
Safety Tips for In-Person Interactions
Be smart when you’re meeting someone in person, even if it’s someone you already know.
Meet in a place where there are other people around, like a mall, public park, or coffee shop.
- WHY? If you need help or feel unsafe, there are other people around who you can ask for help.
Bring a friend or arrange to meet as a group.
- WHY? There’s safety in numbers. You and your friends can look out for each other, and you can check in with each other if something feels wrong.
Tell someone (a responsible friend or trusted adult) where you’re going.
Make sure they have your phone number or another way to reach you.
Agree to check in by texting or calling a trusted person at a certain time.
- WHY? If someone knows where you plan to be, they can reach you by phone if they don’t hear from you for a long time.
- If you are not answering your phone, they will know where to start looking for you.
- If something goes wrong and you aren’t able to check in at the agreed time, your friend or trusted adult can give your last known location to the police.
Have a plan in place. Know what to do or who you would call if you need help. Know where you’re going, and have a plan for getting home.
- HOW? Have a safety plan in place with a friend or trusted adult. Talk about what steps they should take if they don’t hear from you by a certain point in the day.
It’s Not Always a Stranger
You may think of an exploiter as a stranger on the internet, or someone you’re meeting for the first time. Unfortunately, many young people are exploited by people they already know.
An exploiter can be a relative, or someone you thought was a friend. That’s why it’s important to stay safe, and to keep the red flags in mind even in interactions with people you already know.
Talk about the issue with your friends. Pay attention to the signs.
You’re never alone – if you feel uncomfortable in an interaction or are worried about a relationship, tell a trusted adult.
You can also text our confidential line at (604) 866-6779. Text us at any time, and we will respond as quickly as we can during our office hours, 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.