LGBT? Get advice online?
Have you ever felt different? Ever tried to connect with someone who feels the same?
We all feel misunderstood sometimes and it can feel like it is hard to find people that think the same way or are into the same things as us. When you do find someone who understands and knows what you’re going through it feels great. You feel like you belong.
The internet has made it easier than ever to find that special someone through apps, sites and social networks.
Do you feel less shy online than in real life?
Most people do. It can feel a lot easier to talk about more private things online, like love or sex, or things you’ve not told anybody else, like your sexuality or gender identity. You can quickly feel like you know someone really well and want to take things further.
Meeting people online
Many people, whether or not they’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), go online to find someone to chat to, who makes them feel special and maybe who they want to flirt with.
In fact, meeting online is now the second most common way that adults meet a new boyfriend or girlfriend. And LGBT couples are even more likely to have started their relationship online.
Meet the Fakers
Here’s another fact… there are 83 million fake accounts on Facebook. And that’s just Facebook. What about Tumblr, Twitter or Grindr?
So if you’ve never met them in real life, can you really be sure who you’re chatting to?
Some adults looking for sex target young people online. They want to trick or force them into sending embarrassing selfies, doing sexual things on webcam, or agreeing to meet up in real life. They hang around sites and apps where they know young people go to look for love, flirt or find support.
They often pretend to be someone they’re not – maybe even someone your age. They might start flirting and talking about sex really quickly. Or they might take their time to say things that make you feel special. They want to get young people to trust them.
Some will abuse that trust and trick young people into doing things they don’t want to do.
Met someone new online? Ask yourself…
It can be difficult to tell the difference between someone genuine and someone looking to use you for sex. But there are some warning signs …
Help and Advice
Do they like all the same films and music as you? And they’re gorgeous too – just your type? How many of your likes and dislikes are available for anyone to see via your online profiles? Think about how easy it might be for someone to pretend they have lots in common with you using this information. Also, are the pictures that you’ve seen of them genuine? Think about how easy it is to copy, edit and share a picture and pretend it’s your own.
Lots of popular social networks and dating apps enable you to share your location or chat to people in your area. It is never a good idea to share your location and it’s always risky to meet up with someone you’ve only met online. If you do decide to meet up make sure your friends know where you are and take a trusted adult with you.
If you’re LGBT and don’t feel ready to talk about this to other people face to face, there are a number of online forums where you can talk to other lesbian, gay and bisexual people. This can be a safe and anonymous way to find out more. But we know that people who abuse sometimes target LGBT young people. Make sure you use forums provided by recognised LGBT organisations. If you’re not ‘out’ in real life it’s really important that you make sure you don’t reveal any personal information which would enable people to identify you.
Are they keen to meet you in real life? It’s always risky to meet up with someone you’ve only met online. But if you do decide to go, keep yourself safe by meeting in a busy public space, making sure your friends know where you are and take a trusted adult with you.
Maybe they’re very flirty with you and keen to talk about sex from the start. Perhaps they’ve taken time to make you feel special before mentioning sex. Either way, think about how this makes you feel and why they might be doing this. Do you feel comfortable talking about sex? Do you feel ready to talk about sex with them? Are they trying to take things further by showing you porn or asking you take and share naked pictures with them or do sexual things on webcam?
We know that people who abuse look for young people who use a sexy username, post sexy pictures or are talk about sex online. Think about how your online profile makes you appear to others.
It’s very easy for someone to lie to you online, even if you’ve seen them using video chat. Webcam footage can be recorded without a person’s knowledge or consent. This can then be used to fake a webcam feed so that who you see may not be who you’re talking to. Is the video and speech disjointed? Maybe they ask you to go on webcam but claim their cam is always broken. Think about why they might be making this excuse.
Anything you share with a stranger online you’ve lost control of. If you send naked pictures of yourself or do embarrassing things on webcam, they could do share it anywhere, with anyone, even your family. Remember, it’s illegal to take or share ‘indecent’ images of anyone under 18, even if you’re the person in the pictures.
Do you have questions about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender?
If you’re looking for advice and information, it’s important to get it from a trusted source. These organisations specialise in giving impartial advice and support to LGBT young people.
Young Stonewall provides information and advice on issues that affect lesbian, gay and bisexual young people.
www.youngstonewall.org.uk or call 08000 502020
LGBT Youth Scotland
Offering advice and support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people in Scotland. The site has lots of useful information and advice to LGBT young people in the rest of the UK too.
www.lgbtyouth.org.uk or call 0131 555 3940
Support and advice for transgender young people and their families.
EACH (Educational Action Challenging Homophobia)
EACH is the award-winning charity for adults and young people affected by homophobia and transphobia.
Do you need advice about sexual health, sex or relationships?
Free, confidential sexual health information and support services for young people under 25.
www.brook.org.uk or call 0808 802 1234
Are you worried about someone you’ve met online?
Is someone being weird online? Do you feel under pressure to have sex? Are you being sexually abused? You can contact CEOP for help.
CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre)
CEOP helps young people who are being sexually abused or are worried that someone they’ve met is trying to abuse them.
If you’ve met someone online, or face to face, and they are putting you under pressure to have sex or making you feel uncomfortable you should report to CEOP.
This might be someone:
- Making you have sex when you donʼt want to
- Chatting about sex online
- Asking you to meet up face to face if youʼve only met them online
- Asking you to do sexual things on webcam
- Asking for sexual pictures of you
- Making you feel worried, anxious or unsafe
If this is happening to you, or you’re worried that it might be, you can report it to CEOP and they will help make it stop.
If you or someone else is in immediate danger please dial 999.