To keep yourself out of harms way, here is a guide you should use. Adults as well as children need to follow safety rules when joining online communities or forums. With the invention of the internet, predators have evolved from the olden day peeping Tom lurking around the corner to sophisticated and intelligent conservationist behind a computer monitor.
Keep your identity private! This is a public website, that means anyone on the internet can access this website and it's features. Avoid giving out your full name, your mailing address, city, your telephone number, the name of your school or anything that could personally identify you.
Don't meet anyone from online! One of the worst thing you could do is meet someone from online. People aren't always who they say they are. If you do feel the need to meet someone, bring three or more friends/family with you. Never meet or go alone with the person. It's best to meet in a public place such as a coffee shop or mall where there are a lot of people around you.
Don't reply to PM's (Private Messages), Instant Messages, Emails, chat or any other message system that makes you feel uncomfortable and report inappropriate communication to a moderator ASAP.
Many adults and children today are putting their pictures online, which in most cases, would not be a problem, however, if a predator knows what you look like and can find out other information regarding your whereabouts, you may be in trouble.
Let's look at a normal chat or forum conversation.
Person # 1
I am on my school's soccer team. We practice twice a week at school.
Person # 2
I love soccer too. I am on the team at school.
Person # 1
Really, well, by your profile I know you are in Ohio. I am in Ohio, maybe we will play against each other, sometime.
Person # 2
Cool. My teams name is the Dolphin's.
Person # 1
I think I have heard of the Dolphin's, let me get the schedule and see who will play this year. BRB (Be Right Back)
Person #1 is the predator. He now has some information he needs. He put Be Right Back, so he can check on the internet and find a soccer team by the name of Dolphin's in Ohio. Now, he can come back and give a name of another soccer team in the area. With this information, he will also have an idea of the area in which person #2 lives because of the school district.
It may take the predator a few more conversations, but he has already found a common bond, which in this case is soccer.
With adults, the same thing can happen quite easily. Think about your work or your hobbies. Could someone talk you out of information by showing an interest in things you enjoy? Such as jogging at the local park before work, which is only a 10 -minute drive from your home. This small slip can be deadly if the predator has enough information from previous conversations to locate your city.
Remember, you may think you know members of the online community or forum, but if they are not family members or close friends, that you know in your hometown community or business partners you have actually met, then you do not know them. Anyone can come up with a name and photo. People can use any photo they find on the internet or in a magazine to deceive you.
Thank you and be safe!