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Online friendships

Friends aren't just people you know from your school or local community. You can also meet people online who you might have lots in common with.

It's just as important with online friends that you have a healthy friendship. When you meet someone online, it can be harder to tell if someone is genuine and what their intentions are.

Spotting a fake online friend

There are a few things you might notice in your online friends that could indicate they aren’t being completely honest with you:

  • They sound too good to be true. They say they like exactly the same things as you and give you lots of compliments.
  • They pressure you. They ask you to do or talk about things that make you feel uncomfortable, like sex.
  • They want to message in private. They ask to chat somewhere more private, like WhatsApp, and move away from chats or forums where other people can see what they say to you.
  • They want to keep your friendship a secret. They ask you not to tell anyone about your chats or say you will get in trouble if someone finds out.
  • They make promises or offer you presents. They ask you to do things for them and say they’ll get you a present or do something good for you in return.

If you’re worried that someone you’ve met online isn’t who they say they are or if they are making you feel uncomfortable, speak to a trusted adult or report it to CEOP.

Most websites will let you 'block' or report users if you don’t want to talk to them anymore.

Meeting up with an online friend

If you’ve been speaking to someone online for a while, you might decide it’s time to meet face to face. It is important to speak to your parent or carer first, before agreeing to meet up with someone, so they can help you to do this in a safe way.

Here are some things you can do to make your first meeting safer:

  • meet in a busy, public place
  • meet during the day
  • plan a safe journey
  • keep in touch with your parent or carer
  • ask someone to go with you

Anyone who genuinely wants to be your friend won’t mind doing these things to make you feel safe. Read more about meeting up with people you only know online.

Protect your privacy

When you’re chatting to an online friend, you might feel like you trust them and want to share more with them. Even if you have been talking to them a while, they could still be hiding who they really are.

Consider keeping your personal information private from people you meet online.

Here are some things you may not wish to share with online friends:

  • anything that might help them find you in the real world, like your school or where you live
  • anything you wouldn’t want anyone else to find out
  • videos or pictures you wouldn’t want other people to see

If someone is using information you shared online against you, you can seek help to make them stop. Speak to a support service or an adult you trust.

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If you are under 18, report online sexual abuse to one of our Child Protection Advisors at the CEOP Safety Centre.

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If you're over 18, call 101 to speak to your local police. 

In an emergency

If you're ever in immediate harm or danger: 

  • Call the police on 999 straight away
  • Tell an adult you trust who will be able to support you through a difficult time

Talk to someone

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Free, confidential support online and over the phone for young people under 19.

www.childline.org.uk

Call 0800 1111

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The Mix is a charity that provides free information and support for under 25s.

www.themix.org.uk

Use their crisis messenger by texting THEMIX to 85258.

See all help

Online dating

Relationships

Being safer when meeting people online.

Meeting up with someone you met online

Relationships

Safer ways to meet your online friends in person.