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Being online during school holidays should be safe, yet research shows one in four young people are contacted by strangers online.

If you are a gamer, you may be playing with people you don’t know but who want to chat and be friends. However, other strangers may be contacting you to scam you or try to get you to share sexual photos or videos.

Often it is hard to know the difference.

What are some of the signs to look out for?

  • You feel something doesn’t add up. Often, we don’t know why we feel what we do, but we sense something isn’t right.

Always trust your instinct or the feeling that something isn’t right.

  • Things do not add up. The person’s profile doesn’t add up, or they tell you their webcam is broken, so you can’t see who you are talking to.
  • You start chatting to them on Snapchat or another platform, but they ask you to change to talk to them on an encrypted app like WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram. Or, they start messaging you on multiple apps. 
  • They start asking you personal questions quickly. If you meet a stranger in person, they do not usually ask you if you have been kissed or have a boyfriend or a girlfriend in the first meeting. Often online conversations can become very personal quickly. If someone is asking you personal questions or uncomfortable questions, this is a warning sign to be careful.
  • They want you to keep your contact secret. Remember, if a friendship or relationship is healthy, it doesn’t need to be kept a secret. If someone wants to keep contact with you a secret, this is a significant warning sign.

Protecting yourself from unwanted contact.

  1. Make your accounts private. 
  • This allows you to stay in control of who sees what you post online and who can contact you directly.
  • Make sure your location sharing options are only available to you, family members and specific friends.
  • Only accept messages from people on your friend’s list.
  1. Delete old contacts you no longer talk to.
  1. Delete requests from strangers.  Check if you have mutual friends when you get a friend or follow request from someone you don’t know.  If you don’t, or if you are unsure, delete the request.

Remember, being online during holidays should be fun, enjoyable, and relaxing. You do not have to deal with someone you don’t know who makes you feel uncomfortable.

What to do with unwanted contact?

  1. Stop talking to the person.
  1. Take a screenshot of what makes you feel uncomfortable.
  1. Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Even if you feel uncomfortable talking about it, it is better to talk than deal with it yourself.
  1. Report and block the person.