Meeting people, chat, making friends

Almost all teens who have access to the web use it to chat, email, SMS or IRC with their friends. New technology has created loads of new ways to make new friends and talk to them. But this is an area where you have to be really careful - get it wrong and it could cost you your life!

There're now loads of places online where you can talk to people. Some of them - like message boards - are for discussing particular subjects. Others - usually chatrooms, or IRC - work in real time, and are often popular with young people. Many teens find that communication over the web plays a really important role in their friendships and relationships - lots of people even met their boy- or girlfriends online.

The web is also used by some people not just to chat, but to cyber - to have sex with someone over the internet. Sounds crazy? Well lots of people do it, sometimes with webcams, sometimes just typing stuff they'd like to do to each other. Cybering's fine as long as you don't let it carry over into real life. And, even if it sounds a bit strange, it's still a form of safe sex - you won't get any STDs from cybering with someone!

But there are some precautions you have to take on the web - people aren't necessarily who they say they are, and even if someone sends you a photo of themselves, it doesn't necessarily prove anything - so don't take anyone for granted.

People aren't always what they seem on the web.

  • Don't go to meet people you know only from the internet!
  • If you decide you're going to meet someone anyway, take a friend with you and make sure your parents or an adult know where you're going and who you're with.
  • Make sure the person you're meeting knows that you've told an adult what you're doing.
  • Go somewhere where there are lots of other people around - a busy mall, for example.
  • Don't give out personal information over the internet - don't tell anyone your name and address, for example.
  • If someone you know from a chatroom or board wants you to send them pictures or personal info - stop and think! Why are they asking, and can you be sure they're who they say they are?
  • Sometimes you might want to go along to something you've heard about online - maybe a youth group, counselling or information sessions. A bit of common sense is needed here - and if you're unsure, always ask someone else's opinion.