i don't want to come off as condescending, i really am just worried for the safety of the largely very young userbase of this website; so please hear me out!
i know for most of you, a lot of your very important developmental years were spent in quarantine; time when you would've been going outside and making new friends was spent meeting people across the world to play acnh and minecraft with. i really don't blame anyone for not having the experience or skills to stay safe online; i didn't at one point either.
internet safety bullet points:
-people DO NOT need to know your name. this goes for trans people too, this isn't just about legal/birth names. choose a name separate from your offline life. not only does this make it less likely that you'll be found by people you know irl, which is generally not fun, but it also makes it harder for potentially dangerous individuals (predators, stalkers ect) to learn about you. you might be thinking "there are 100s of people with my name, just in my area, what are they going to do with a first name?" but if they gather enough information about you (a more specific area, your appearance, your age, your birthday) they can narrow it down.
-you DO NOT need to share your age. i understand wanting to make friends with people around the same age as you, but that doesn't mean it is necessary to give exact numbers. a simple "minor"/"adult" or age range, will work.
-while generally pretty harmless to list a broad area such as a country or administrative division. DO NOT give people your city, school or any nearby landmarks unless you trust that person and you have proof of their identity. i don't see the point in sharing this information, outside of maybe country/time zone, but if you really want to share it for whatever reason, make sure it is pretty broad.
-people don't really need to know what you look like. i know for some art forms you need to show your face (makeup, cosplay ect) but otherwise there is no need to show your face on the internet. people from your offline life can and will recognize you which is awkward, and combined with other information such as your region, age and name, potentially dangerous people can use your appearance to identify you.
-people don't need to know your medical history. that is private information, and while if you want to share your experiences, i don't see much harm in it, i do think it is weird that it has become so normal to have your medical information listed on your profile.
-DO NOT share personal information in group messages (even if you trust everyone in the group). the majority of group messaging platforms allow new members to see messages sent before they were added. you never know who is going to get added to a conversation.
-if anyone asks you for personal information (legal name, age, location ect) DO NOT feel pressured into giving it to them. if they were genuinely just curious they will accept that you don't feel comfortable sharing that information, and if they react badly that is extremely suspicious. it is NORMAL to use alias' and keep information private online.
MEETING PEOPLE IRL:
-if you are planning to meet up with a friend you made online irl, choose your location carefully. the location should be away from your school, residence or workplace. it should be in a highly populated area such as a public park during the day, a mall or a recreational activity centre (bowling, skating ect).
-it is recommended to bring a friend, however, this is not always necessary as long as the other criteria are met. however, it is ALWAYS necessary to tell a relative or friend your plans and your meeting time/place. text this person throughout the meeting.
-if you meet with the person and they are not who they said they are or are otherwise untrustworthy, LEAVE. have someone you trust pick you up. they can pretend to be sick, injured or have a work emergency.
-trust your gut. if something seems wrong get out.