Respectful relationships online

Getting to know someone new (online or offline) can be an exciting time! In all your relationships, it’s good to keep a few things in mind: the importance of open and honest communication, staying safe while online dating and red flags to look out for.

Open and honest communication between partners is key in a healthy relationship. Letting the other person know how you’re feeling and what you need can help you avoid misunderstandings.

Here are a few things to consider to make sure you have a positive experience and stay safe while dating online:

  • Consider how the social platform you're using protects and safeguards your conversations and the images you share – you might need to change these privacy settings so that you feel more comfortable.
  • Set boundaries to ensure there’s mutual respect in your relationship. If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, they’re not worth your time.
  • Look after your mental health. It’s natural to feel low when things don’t go how you planned. If you feel rejected, frustrated or you’ve had a difficult conversation with someone, it’s important to draw the line and give yourself a break offline.

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There are also additional things you can do to make sure you’re safe when you’re meeting someone for the first time:

  • Think about where you want to meet up – maybe somewhere public where there will be bystanders to help if anything does go wrong.
  • Plan how you can get to and from the meeting point without relying on the person you’re meeting.
  • It’s always a great idea to let a friend know where you’re going.

These are some warning signs (red flags) to look out for in all your relationships, but especially when you’re getting to know someone new.

Red flags include situations where a person:

  • expresses deep feelings after very little communication
  • tests your boundaries or pushes you to do things you don’t want to
  • refuses to video call or their voice doesn't seem quite right on calls
  • is unwilling to talk through issues
  • criticises or dismisses you frequently
  • doesn’t show up for the first meeting
  • doesn’t include photos of themselves on the platform you’re using
  • turns the conversation so that it's always about themselves or the conversation isn’t evenly weighted.

Graphic by Anusha Maheshwari, Monash Minds

If you notice any of these red flags, you can:

  • talk to your friends and family
  • get counselling help
  • think about how much information you want to share with the person.

Remember, if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, uses abusive or threatening language, shares inappropriate content, or you suspect that they are not who they claim to be (catfishing), you can report them using the safety features on the platform you’re using. You can also get advice and support from the Safer Community Unit or report the incident to the eSafety Commissioner.

To find out more about catfishing and other forms of online abuse, check out the eSafety Commissioner website.