Is Online Chat With Strangers Safe?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant
Updated December 18, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Studies have found that social connection is one of the most essential needs of humanity and can improve mental and physical health. The internet has provided valuable tools that help people connect, including online chat and therapy.  

However, some people may feel concerned that their habit of chatting with strangers could compromise their safety. Others might worry they are spending too much time talking to people they don’t know and want to redirect their energy to other parts of their life. Understanding online chat safety can help you make wise internet decisions for your social life.
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Connecting With A Professional Can Help You Receive Safe Advice

Why Do People Chat With Strangers Online?

There are many reasons people chat with strangers online. Someone might want to make a new friend or talk to someone to solve a personal problem. Other people might chat with a stranger online to increase joy in their lives.

In one study about talking with strangers, researchers confirmed that communicating with strangers increases happiness in many individuals, as it’s a form of connection.  

The internet provides new opportunities to meet this need, and chatting with strangers can help people socialize. When isolated, they can miss opportunities, forget how to converse, or experience depression. Talking with strangers can be informative, expand your knowledge about the world, and lead to new opportunities. 

The influence of social media has broken down many barriers and concerns about the potential dangers of talking to strangers. People of all ages use the internet to talk to others, make friends, and connect. Studies have found that 16% of teens have online friends they or their friends do not know in real life, and 12% of adults have begun a committed relationship by meeting their partner online.  

The concept of concealment is also often crucial when chatting with strangers. For example, an individual might choose to use an online chat when experiencing painful emotions that they don’t want to express with someone they know. Talking about one’s problems often seems more manageable when talking behind an online avatar or nickname.  

However, while it may be fun to chat with strangers online, there may be underlying concerns if it becomes a habit, such as loneliness, isolation, or depression. Addressing these underlying issues can bring individuals back to the present and into their offline lives. 

The Dangers Of Chatting With Strangers Online

Many people know that giving away your home address or saying too much about your personal life is risky online. For this reason, parents are encouraged only to let their children use the internet with adult supervision. There are also a growing number of apps and services to monitor a child’s web activity or prevent them from looking up certain websites without adult authorization.

Although dangers can be frequent with children online, there are also dangers for adults. For example, there are a few facts regarding online abuse, such as internet predators targeting people in online stranger chat sessions. About 59% of young adults and teens have experienced online abuse or harassment. 

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat

How To Stay Safe Chatting Online

When using websites, ensuring anyone online cannot acquire your location or information can be essential. In addition, being careful about the photos and videos you post can make a difference. Ensure you don’t show any identifying information about your house, street, apartment complex, or minor family constituents, as people online can use that information. 

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People who are chatting with strangers online might also use advanced tactics like computer hacking or tracking. You can also prevent it by using a VPN. A VPN is software that reroutes your internet’s IP address attached to your device through an IP address in another location, allowing individuals to see you in a different location if they check your IP. Checking someone’s IP can be simple, and it is not privileged information, so a VPN is often safer than no VPN. 

Many tech-savvy adults are also careful to take precautions like covering their webcams when not in use. Covering or turning off cameras prevents hackers from working their way into webcams and secretly viewing someone remotely.

When following common-sense guidelines for internet safety, most social websites can be safe places for adults to chat with strangers. However, be cautious when seeking a chat site. When you start a chat, you may not know whether the person you’re speaking to is who they say they are. In addition, chatting with a stranger online may be risky if you are emotionally distressed. Bullies and unkind people online may treat you poorly if they notice you’re sensitive to their words. 

If a cyber crime like cyberbullying, identity fraud, or hacking occurs to you, you can submit a free report to the FBI for cybercrime to let them know what has happened.  

How To Meet And Chat With Strangers Offline

Many people enjoy talking to strangers through a chat site or social media because it allows them to meet new friends, talk about their lives, and connect. However, getting to know new people can be done offline as well. Below are a few suggestions. 

Meet People By Volunteering In Your Community

Volunteering at local organizations is one way to chat with strangers who care about similar issues as you. In addition, you can give back to your community, which can positively impact your mental health, and many mental health professionals recommend volunteering as a form of therapeutic connection.

Attend Courses To Meet New People

Attending courses helps you meet and chat with strangers who are interested in the same topics as you. Meeting new people in a class or workshop may show you there is already a conveyed interest that can help foster your relationship.

Chat With Strangers By Joining Clubs

Like courses, joining clubs can help you find and chat with strangers who have the same interests. Clubs can help you meet new people quickly while enjoying an exciting activity. 

Go To A Support Group 

If you’re interested in online chats because you’re experiencing a complex challenge that you feel others don’t understand, you might benefit from a support group for that challenge. Support groups often meet in person and can be beneficial ways to receive guidance for free. 

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Connecting With A Professional Can Help You Receive Safe Advice

Talk To A Counselor

Making new friends is challenging for some people, leading them to seek conversations with strangers online. In other cases, an unresolved personal issue or a mental health condition can propel someone to seek out strangers for a chat. In addition, some people start chatting online out of boredom and find it takes up a significant amount of their energy. In this case, people might want to stop chatting online with strangers for more time for family, in-person friends, and other offline activities. 

If you are concerned about your habit of chatting with strangers online, talking to a therapist might help. In addition, a counselor who is available online might be a comfortable option if you already like online chat. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp allow clients to connect with a therapist that matches their needs through video, phone, or live chat sessions. Online therapists are also available for more frequent sessions than many mental health professionals who see clients in their offices, and online therapy can be more cost-effective.  

If your reasons for seeking out chat with strangers have to do with a mental health condition like depression, several studies have shown that connecting with a therapist online can be as effective as seeing someone in person to treat depression, anxiety, and trauma. 

Takeaway

There are many reasons you may want to chat online with strangers. It could be to discuss personal issues, loneliness, boredom, or to make new friends. Although talking to someone online can be beneficial, if you’re struggling with mental health or concerned about your habits, online chats may not replace the benefit of an online therapist. 

Other ways to meet and talk safely with new people include volunteering, taking classes, and joining clubs. In addition, talking to a therapist online or in person might help you resolve underlying personal challenges. Consider reaching out to a mental health provider for further guidance. Some online platforms allow you to talk to a therapist over chat if that is how you feel most comfortable.

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