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Article Title: Cyberwatch: Online Dating and Cybersex

Edition: August 2001
Category: Horizons
Author: M. E. Kabay
Article:

The author is an Associate Professor in Computer Information Systems at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont

This is another article in a continuing series devoted to how ordinary people can protect themselves when using the Internet.

There are thousands of sites on the Web specializing in helping people meet each other. Dating service sites usually explicitly restrict participation to people over 18 years old, but most of them depend on possession of a credit card as their sole mechanism for authenticating age. It is very difficult to exclude teenagers or younger children from such sites if they have access to credit card numbers.

It might be an eye-opener for parents and teachers to type in "online dating" in the search field of a search engine such as Google < http://www.google.com > and then visit a few of the sites to get a sense of what's going on.

In addition to matchmaking, users of the Internet can also get involved in cybersex. People chatting online can describe themselves or each other in sexual situations or interactions that are age-inappropriate and may be disturbing for youngsters. Many divorces have resulted from cybersex when the one spouse gets upset about their beloved's intimacy with a stranger, even via the Internet.

Practical Guidelines for Parents and Teachers:

  • Discuss online dating with kids so they understand what's involved.
  • Ensure that kids understand why it is inappropriate and even dangerous for them to masquerade as adults in online dating services.

Practical Guidelines for Cyber-Daters of All Ages:

  • As you are getting to know someone online, ask questions about lots of things you are interested in; for example: hobbies, politics, religion, education, birthdate, family background and marital history and status. Keep the answers you receive and beware of self-contradictions.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who seems to be too good to be true, such as agreeing with your taste on every single preference or interest. Trying too hard to please may mark a manipulative and potentially dangerous personality.
  • Be honest about yourself; state your own interests and characteristics fairly, including things you think might be less attractive than stereotypes and cultural norms dictate.
  • If you get to the point of exchanging pictures, be sure that you see the person in a wide variety of situations and with other people to make it harder to send pictures of someone else.
  • Talk to your new friend by phone; be suspicious of resistance.
  • Don't rush into face-to-face contact.
  • Before you agree to meet, get your date's full name, address and telephone number. Be suspicious if the person refuses to give you a home number: could they have a spouse or a current live-in friend they are deceiving? Call the home number a couple of times to see if someone else answers
  • Be suspicious of anyone who tries to pressure you in any way, including demanding money or insisting on a meeting before you feel confident of their good intentions
  • Give your contact's name, address and other identifying information and the exact details of where and when you are going to meet to friends and family. Do not meet anyone who wants to keep the location and time a secret. Meet in a well-lit, public place such as a coffee shop
  • If you like your new friend a lot, have a background check done using a professional service such as http://www.whoishe.com or http://www.whoisshe.com .

Resources:

  • "10 tips for online dating safely" http://www.spankoz.com/online_dating_safety.htm
  • "Cyberdating tips from Dateable.com: 7 things everyone should know about online personals" http://www.links2love.com/dating_sites_links.htm
  • "Cybersex and online relationships" http://chatting.about.com/internet/chatting/cs/cybersex/
  • "Cyborgasms: Cybersex amongst multiple-selves and cyborgs in the narrow-bandwidth space of American Online chat rooms: M.A. dissertation" (1996) http://www.socio.demon.co.uk/Cyborgasms.html
  • "Online dating advice from the experts: information on how to play it safe." http://www.joylight.com/dating.html
  • "Safety tips for cyber-dating" http://whoishe.com/safety.html
  • "Teen Advice Online: Dating" http://www.teenadvice.org/dating/


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