Roughly half of young adults have used a dating site or app. A majority of online daters say their overall experience was positive, but many users report being harassed or sent explicit messages on these platforms. As is the case when meeting someone new, whether online or offline, it’s wise to keep a few safety precautions in mind. Dating apps don’t conduct criminal background checks on users, so it’s up to each user to determine if they are comfortable meeting up with someone or beginning an intimate relationship. However, it is important to remember that if you do experience sexual assault, sexual violence, or sexual harassment while dating online or using an app, it is not your fault. Below are some steps you can take to increase your safety when interacting with others through online dating apps and services. Like any safety tips, they are not a guarantee, but they may help you feel more secure.
- Avoid connecting with suspicious profiles. If the person you matched with has no bio, linked social media accounts, only a few friends, or has only posted one picture, it may be a fake account. It’s important to use caution if you choose to connect with someone you have so little information about.
- Do Your Research. Do a simple Google search before meeting your date or becoming more intimate. Just to make sure you have at least some idea as to who the person is before you meet with them. If possible, try to find pictures and see what additional information comes up about the person beyond Facebook and Instagram.
- Video Chat Your Date Before Meeting or Becoming More Intimate. Today, there are so many ways to video chat with the ability to use FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, and even Facebook for video calls. It’s a good idea to get a glimpse of your date before meeting or become more intimate. This could also help to reduce the risk of being “catfished” by someone claiming to be someone they are not.
- Meet Up in a Public Place. Avoid going somewhere private with your date. Instead, meet at a public place where there are plenty of people around, like a restaurant, cafe, skating rink, or another place where there’s typically a good crowd. In the event that you feel uncomfortable, there will be other people around who can help. Additionally, this gives a family member or friend the opportunity to be present or in the vicinity should something go wrong. As another great tip, if you visit a bar or restaurant, let a bartender or waitress know if things aren’t going right on your date through code. Some bars have secret codes like asking for an “Angel Shot” that guests could use to notify a staff member that something’s off-key.
- Tell Someone Else the Deets. Let someone else know who your date is, where you are going, when you expect to return to campus, and any other important details. It gives you the comfort of knowing someone else knows where you’re supposed to be if something goes wrong.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and feel free to leave a date or cut off communication with whoever is making you feel unsafe. Do not worry about feeling rude—your safety is most important, and your date should understand that. If you felt uncomfortable or unsafe during the date, remember you can always unmatch, block, or report your match after meeting up in person which will keep them from being able to access your profile in the future.