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I'm 16. He's 24

I'm 16 years of age and I started talking to a 24 year old from a social media app called Instagram. I've known him for around two years and we use to have on and off conversations about anything, just normal conversations.

Recently, we started speaking a lot more and we want to meet eachother. He wants to come over to England for my 17th birthday. I want to approach this subejct with my parents but I'm not sure how to as I feel like they will think he's a stranger and he's out to hurt me.

What can I do?

Ask Sam

Sam

Hi there,

It’s understandable that you would want to meet someone you have been talking to for such a long time. But meeting up with an online stranger is risky for anyone, no matter how old they are. It can be especially dangerous when there is such a big age difference.

When someone has been talking to a person online for a long period of time it can make you feel like you know them really well. Nobody can ever tell who someone really is online.

It’s always good to be able to be open about any friendships or relationships with your parents and family. Keeping relationships private from your family makes it easier for someone to trick you. But telling people who care about you might stop you making a mistake. Nobody has the right to ask you to keep a secret that makes you feel uncomfortable. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s always good to trust your instincts.

A lot of people set up fake profiles to groom young people and this can include talking to them for months and even years. Groomers can be male or female and any age. It could be interesting to ask yourself: "would I talk online with someone who was 8 years younger than me and travel to meet them?"

If you decide to meet someone you have made friends with online it’s important to think of ways to keep safe. Good ideas could be to take a trusted adult with you, to meet in a public place and to always make sure someone knows where you are. It’s also good to tell the online friend you are meeting that you are bringing an adult with you. If the person you are meeting is genuine they should understand the reasons for this. 

The thinkuknow website for ages 14+ has some great advice for young people who are thinking about meeting up with people they have met online. It might be an idea to look at the pages from ‘thinkuknow’ and our website with your parents so that they can see you have begun to think it through and are taking responsibility by talking this through with them.

Telling someone how you feel doesn’t always change a situation but it can make you feel more understood and heard.

Our counsellors are always here to support you and you are welcome to get in touch anytime to talk about this and how its making you feel.

Hope some of this helps.

Take care,
Sam 

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