Crushes, flirting, dating, exploring your sexuality... it’s all part of growing up. As we spend more and more time on our screens, our relationships increasingly play out online and we might behave differently to how we do in real life.

Dr Ester McGeeney and Dr Elly Hanson, authors of the Digital Romance report, describe technology as being central to young people’s relationships today. “It’s part of how young people communicate, build intimacy, hang out, argue, make up, break up and deal with the post break-up fallout,” says Dr McGeeney.

To help you have happy and healthy relationships in your digital spaces, we want you to be aware of some of the challenges and know how to deal with them and seek support if you need it. This is particularly important for our under-18 community who might get caught up in the moment and do something inappropriate or risky. Some of the advice below isn’t easy reading but we think it’s really important that we talk openly about this.

Our advice

  • Take your time getting to know someone, as you would in real life. You might think you know them from their photos and interacting with them on their live feed... but do you really? Keep an eye out for red flags – if something feels wrong, it probably is.
  • Don’t share lots of personal details straight away, such as where you live, where you go to school/college, your email address or your mobile number.
  • Don’t ask people to send nudes to you and don’t share naked images of yourself or other people. We don’t allow nudity on Yubo and will send a warning message if we see it. Find out more in our Nudity and Sexting advice.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity can be daunting for some young people – perhaps you’re questioning your sexuality or you feel under pressure to deny your feelings about your gender. We want Yubo to be a positive, diverse, supportive community so, if you experience bullying or any other issues, report it to us immediately.
  • Think carefully before you post a comment about your – or someone else’s – relationship or break-up. Might you upset someone? Are you interfering in something that’s not your business? Could your post be considered discriminatory? We don’t tolerate abusive language on Yubo. If you see someone else making nasty comments, you might want to call them out on it.
  • Be aware of the underlying meaning of memes, emojis and acronyms. For example, if someone messages you with the aubergine, water droplets or tongue emoji or CU46, FWB or GNOC, their intentions are likely to be sexual. If that makes you uncomfortable, ignore them or block them.
  • Don’t ghost someone who thought you were into them. Going silent can be really hurtful – the least you can do is let them know (nicely) if you’re not interested in chatting any more.
  • With young people increasingly learning about sex from watching pornography, extreme sexual acts, such as choking, are becoming normalized. It can be easy to get drawn into behaving in a certain way online but this could lead to you having unrealistic expectations about sex as well as exploitation and abuse. We don’t allow sexual or violent content on Yubo and that includes removing all content with sexual role play hashtags (e.g. #DDLG – Daddy Dom / Little Girl and #CGL – Care Giver / Little) from our under-18 community. Read our advice about Grooming and Sexual Exploitation and report any concerns to us.
  • Research shows that a quarter of teens have been called names, harassed or put down by their partner via text or online chat. Post break-up is a particularly high-risk time as exes might send nasty messages or share private photos. Report anything that makes you uncomfortable.
  • If you’ve spent time getting to know someone online and decide to meet up with them in real life, make sure it’s during the day, in a public place and somewhere you feel comfortable. Take a friend with you to the first meeting if you can. If not, tell someone you trust where you’ll be meeting them and at what time. You might also want to message a friend while you’re there to let them know how it’s going and always have a plan for leaving so that you know you can get home safely.
  • Finally, be kind, respectful and authentic at all times. Don’t pretend you’re someone you’re not and make sure you treat people the way you want to be treated. And if you’re worried about anything that has happened on Yubo, let us know so that we can take action.

“The best advice I can give, whether you are online or offline, is just stay true to your values. It’s so easy to do what everyone else is doing, keep quiet when we see something wrong or hurt someone when they’ve hurt us. But you will grow as a person and feel inner pride when you act with respect, solidarity and kindness.”

Dr Elly Hanson, co-author of the Digital Romance report

Useful websites

Amaze https://amaze.org/

Child Exploitation and Online Protection command (CEOP) https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/

CyberTipline http://www.missingkids.com/gethelpnow/cybertipline

Headspace https://headspace.org.au/young-people/life-issues/

Internet Watch Foundation https://www.iwf.org.uk/

Need Help Now https://needhelpnow.ca/app/en

NetFamilyNews https://www.netfamilynews.org/teen-dating-abuse-study-hotline

Revenge Porn Helpline https://revengepornhelpline.org.uk/

Spunout https://spunout.ie/life/article/sexting

The Line https://www.theline.org.au/?category=relationships_faea3c4&display=Relationships

The Porn Conversation http://thepornconversation.org/

Thinkuknow https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/