Romance On The Internet...

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Knowing the dangers of the Internet
Just as in virtually all other aspects of life, there are persons who will use the Internet as a means to pursue criminal enterprise, some of which may be personally hazardous to other users. Our purpose in presenting this information is to make users aware of the possibility of criminal application and to foster the same type of healthy caution which we encourage all citizens to observe in their daily lives.

The Internet is a venue through which people otherwise extraordinarily distant and diverse may communicate with convenience. "Meeting" people on the Internet as correspondents is very easy; discerning any real information about these new acquaintances is more difficult.

Whether you are meeting people through HTML/VRML links, MOO/MUSH/MUD sites, commercial dial-up services, commercial or free chat lines, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels, online dating services, newsgroups, or in other ways, you should be aware of the possible dangers of interaction when it turns in a personal direction.

While danger from such links may not be readily apparent, consider that the persons with whom you are communicating:

  1. May not be anything like they describe themselves, and may not even be the gender they claim.

  2. May not be providing their real name or personal information, and may be using someone else's account or even a "hacked" account.

  3. May not be located where they say; the individual whom you believe to be on the other side of the country or overseas may be two blocks away.
  4. Depending upon how you connect, your communication with a perfectly legitimate person may be seen or intercepted by a third party with much different motives.

Report Problems
If you experience problems when communicating on the net, especially conduct or language which you find threatening or offensive, contact the service provider, whether commercial or non-profit. Copy any contact information you have on the problem person, including email or other account/name/address information obtained (including the "finger" or other "who is" information your connection client may be able to provide).

Most commercial service providers will furnish written instructions for reporting this type of problem. On the IRC, you can report the problem to your "OP" or to one of the OP channels. If you cannot get the provider to correct the problem or intervene satisfactorily, consider changing to another provider who will deal effectively with such matters.

Be aware of how to use the "twit-list" feature of your mail, chat or other connectivity software. Many mail browsers and IRC programs allow you to simply filter out mail or messages from a list of users you specify (often referred to as a "twit list"). They can talk, but you don't have to listen.

Tips For Your Safety
Here are some basic personal safety tips you should consider whenever participating in Internet communication, particularly of a personal nature:

  1. Avoid giving out personal information such as your home address or telephone number to people you meet on the net; not everyone is what they seem. There are predators out there, but they won't look like wolves; they'll be disguised as sheep.

  2. Exercise caution when agreeing to meet anyone in person whom you've met on the net. Before you arrange any such meeting, at least try to address the following:

    1. Can you verify, through a third party whom you know and trust, the true identity of this person?

    2. Is there a way to verify the information provided by this person?

Practice safe net; Insist that someone you've met on the net provide a dependable means for reference-checking before you consider meeting in person?

Predators on the net thrive on the anonymity of the interface. Find a way to positively identify your potential romantic partner before you allow a meeting. Where do they work? Can you call them at work? Where do they live and what is their telephone number?

If you choose to arrange a meeting, make it on YOUR terms:

  1. Meet in as public a place as possible.

  2. Arrange your own transportation to and from the meeting.

  3. Bring a friend along for security; consider a "double-date" the first time.

  4. Set your conditions for the encounter, and don't let your new friend change them.

  5. Stay near other people and in lighted areas throughout the meeting.

  6. If things go awry, can you positively identify the person to the police?

Limit meetings to public places until you are comfortable with the other person and certain of who they are what they want from the relationship.

The net is very much like your community; the majority of the population are good people who do their best to obey the rules and behave responsibly. But, also very much as in your community, there are potential offenders mixed in the population. Observe the same precautions on the net you do in everyday life; be aware of the possibilities, and take appropriate steps to avoid situations you know are dangerous.

As you seek friends, or romance, on the net, good luck! But let's be careful out there, okay?


A special note about children and the net:
If you have young children in the household, and dial-up access to commercial on-line or university-provided Internet services, unsupervised use should not be permitted.

Younger children do not have the sophistication and experience which adults use to recognize potential dangers in email/chat connections. Even though it may make use less convenient, consider using a special boot disk to access dial-up service, a password-protected batch-file, a locking program on the Windows icon, or other means to insure limited access.

Some commerical online providers have features that allow parents to limit a child's access, but it is not an automatic service - you must request the limiting option be activated.

Take positive parental control over your child's access to on-line services!