A couple days ago, I received a text message from my father with a link to a video. It is very normal for my father to send a million videos to our “Family” group chat, therefore, I naturally ignore them and see them later. However, this particular video dragged my attention instantly. The story starts with two young teens finding each other online. They start sending innocent pictures of each other, and constantly texting so they can get to know each other better. Until they decide to finally meet up in person. The end of the video was not what I was expecting. When these two “young and innocent teenagers” met at the park, they surprised each other in a way they never expected. After all, they were both grown up men, who had been hiding behind the screen to take advantage of the other teen they thought they were texting this whole time. The point of this video was to show how many adults hide online to hurt children. There can be so many of them, that even they can find each other. This video was very impactful. I loved everything about the video, and it made me question so many things. Things like these can be so misleading, that you think you would never fall into these traps. However, what if you do? How can you avoid it?
1. Make sure the person you are talking to online has friends in common with you.
The biggest mistake you can make is accepting someone’s friend request, without any background on who they might be or what they might do. It is very important to know that you have friends in common; therefore, if something between you happens, you always know who to go to. In addition, make sure that the friends that you have in common are close to you. There is a lot more reassurance that the person behind the screen is someone that a lot of your close friends truly know as well.
2. See if they have pictures with people you know actually exist.
Once you know they have friends in common, make sure you check out their profile. They are most likely going to be stalking you online, so do the same. Scroll through the pictures that they upload themselves, and through pictures that others upload of them. If you have friends that appear in the pictures with this person, then they are most likely not random adults trying to hurt you.
3. Ask a lot of questions when texting.
You want to know as much information as possible from this “stranger-ish”, so ask them everything about what they do in their free time, things about their family, things about school, etc. Ask about what school they go to, so you know if they live nearby and if people from that school know him/her. Most importantly (in a non-creepy way of course) whenever they tell you they are with their family, ask them to show you so you can get to know him/her better. Always be careful when you ask these questions, since you don’t want to seem like you are the one that is hiding behind the screen.
4. Talk to the friends that you have in common about him/her.
It is important to hear all sides of the story. Just as if you were personally meeting another person, it is equally important to talking to others about this person. Make sure that your friends tell you things that you want to hear or things that you don’t want to hear. Understand that you should listen to your friends, parents and the people who are physically there for you before you listen to your potential friend online. You want to be as real as possible about this topic if you plan on meeting this person later on in the future.
5. Always meet up in groups of people.
If the person you are talking to online, does not agree to meet up with you and your friends, then that should turn on a big “Stop” sign in your head. You should feel one hundred percent secure that the person you are about the meet is the person you are expecting to see. Nothing feels worse than seeing reality in the last minute, since you have been blind this whole time. Always, always, meet this person with your friends at your side.
I will include the link to the video below. The subtitles are in Spanish, however, the language shouldn’t matter for someone to understand this incredible video.