Expert warns young adults how to stay safe online - Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Expert warns young adults how to stay safe online


By now you've probably heard the story of University of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o and  how the girlfriend he had an online relationship with died of leukemia at the start of the football season.  It turns out she never existed, and he now claims he's the victim of a cruel and elaborate hoax.  While there are a lot of holes in Teo's story, there are also questions about online relationships in general.  What's normal to computer-savvy college kids these days?

Several western Illinois university students say they haven't heard of too many people having an online relationship without ever meeting, as in the case of Manti Teo.  But it's definitely more common to approach someone online first, and that brings up the question who's safe to talk to and why are more teens and young adults doing this?

"It's easier to talk to somebody on there cause they don't have to do the interaction face to face. It's just an easier out for them," said WIU student Kris Judd and another WIU Student agrees.   

"Because they can lie about themselves and they don't really have to be honest until they have to meet the person and that's when everything starts happening," said WIU Junior Alicia Hetzer.  

Students Judd and Hetzer said more people are meeting online as opposed to face to face, and Hetzer said she personally knows someone who's started a relationship online.  

"One of my best friends did go online and she did meet her boyfriend and they are still together but I was totally against it and I was like I don't think you need to go meet him by herself," she said.  

WIU Assistant Professor Bree McEwan studies online social interactions. She said some people feel more comfortable getting to know someone over the internet.

"But people will meet and form what we call hyper personal relationships and so they will become closer and feel more connected to this person than they might have if it was a solely face to face relationship," she said.  

But McEwan warns people to be just as cautious online as you would be in person. 

"When someone's approaching you online and asking you for something, ask yourself how would you respond to that person offline. If someone came up to you and said I want to be your friend... would that be weird?" McEwan asked.  

She also has another piece of advice to keep you safe online.  If someone contacts you on Facebook or Twitter, see if you have any mutual friends and what they're saying about that person.  Also be wary of any unsolicited invitations through social media.

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