Building meaningful, respectful, and safe connections
In the vibrant world of ZEPETO, making friends and connections can be the most exciting part of the experience. Just like in real life, forming healthy friendships online involves understanding, respect, and careful consideration. Whether you're seeking new companions or reconnecting with old friends, this guide was designed to help you build positive and safe relationships on ZEPETO.
Let’s start with a strong foundation to respectful relationships: Boundaries.
Setting boundaries can often feel difficult, whether it’s with someone you’ve just met or even a close friend. But communicating your comfort levels and asking others about theirs is essential to establishing healthy relationships online and offline.
Why are setting boundaries so important to building healthy relationships on ZEPETO?
Need help with setting some initial boundaries? Make sure your Healthy Boundaries Settings are up to date.
Proactive boundary-setting allows you to connect with others while maintaining your safety and comfort.
Types of boundaries you can set early on:
Let your new friend know that you have designated online times and offline times for other activities. This helps manage expectations for instant responses.
No Fly Zones
Have an open conversation about topics you're comfortable discussing and those you prefer to avoid. Encourage your new friend to share their preferences as well.
Limit Content Sharing
Decide what type of content you're comfortable sharing (e.g., ZEPETO creations) and avoid sharing personal photos or videos, as well as personal information.
Talk About Reporting:
Mention that you're committed to maintaining a safe and respectful environment. Share resources, including Soteria, and open the floor for your friend to discuss what they’ve done to avoid inappropriate behavior.
Trust Your Instincts:
If something doesn't feel right, don't be afraid to step back or distance yourself. Trust your instincts and prioritize your well-being.
What can we learn from healthy online interactions?
Green flags are positive indicators of a digital relationship. Pay attention to how you feel when you meet someone new on ZEPETO—if you feel comfortable, respected, and valued, you might have found a positive connection! Here are some green flags to look for:
However, always stay cautious and be prepared to take action if any red flags or discomfort arise.
How to identify toxic situations on ZEPETO
Online grooming is when someone, usually an adult, tries to build a friendship with a young person online to gain their trust. They might pretend to be someone nice and friendly, but their real intention is to trick or manipulate the young person into risky things like sharing personal information and intimate pictures.
It can happen quickly or over time, but at its core it’s a process of taking advantage of trust to shift expectations of what safe behavior is and leveraging fear and shame to keep a victim silent.
Groomers don’t fit into one category– they can be any age, any gender. They might be someone you just met online or someone you’ve known for awhile. Often, their manipulation is difficult to recognize because they are expert liars. But we can learn to identify the signs.
Let’s walk through the stages of grooming, so that we can prepare for risks and empower our friends to do the same.
The Initial Contact
Always think critically and never, EVER, give out your personal, identifiable information (last/full name, address, phone number, etc.) unless you absolutely, 100% trust the person.
In a perfect world, everyone who starts a chat with you will be genuine people looking for friends. In fact, the initial contact often looks normal enough.
In this fictional example, the groomer (Alex) starts with friendly conversation and gradually tries to gain trust and personal information, eventually asking if Mindy would be interested in moving the conversation to a different platform.
There are three potential red flags Mindy can spot with this interaction:
- She can’t 100% know Alex is who he says he is from an initial conversation
- She doesn’t feel comfortable sharing personal information, including where she lives, with someone she just met online
- She’s not sure why Alex can’t keep talking to her on ZEPETO
I know it feels really good to have friends to talk to about your problems and to feel like you can trust them, but be aware of what you speak about. Share whatever you are comfortable with sharing, Keep in mind these things can be seen as vulnerability to people who are looking to exploit you.
Remember you can share as much or as little as you would like to with people you’re getting to know online. Boundaries are a sign of a healthy and respectful friendship or relationship, and if one side does not respect the others, there’s something iffy. Take the fictional example of Mindy and Alex’s continued conversation, where boundaries are being subtly pushed.
Below are more red flags that cause Mindy to start doubting Alex’s intentions:
Additional red flags in the Boundary-Pushing stage include:
- Gift-giving (large or small): a grooming technique used to flatter you into trusting the aggressor
- Constant texting and demands for you to respond right away
- If someone asks questions to find out if you are alone in a room or at home
- Getting you to distrust family members and friends
- Drain your emotional battery
- Create pressure or spiraling anxiety
- Force you to keep secrets
- Isolate you from your friends and family
- Gaslight your boundaries
- Re-shares your private photos or information
The Big Ask
Make a point to not interact with people who ask for nudes or money.
Remember you have control. Don’t feel obligated to share any pictures of content that you do not feel comfortable with and remember to think how this could affect you moving forward. Let’s continue with Mindy’s journey to finding her exit strategy from online grooming.
Mindy realizes that Alex may not be a true friend, but actually a creep, because of the red flags below.
It’s important to note, that if you do end up being coerced into sending pictures, it’s not your fault and as terrifying as the situation is, there is a way out.
Responding to Red Flags
We know how nerve-wracking setting boundaries could be, but don’t be discouraged! We put together some conversation starters for you.
And remember– ignoring, blocking, and reporting users that display red flag behaviors is a solid-enough response.
How to leave toxic situations
The Exit Strategy
“You are not alone. It feels so isolating to be taken advantage of by someone those around you can't see or physically protect you against. But reaching out for help and finding community both on and offline is the best thing you can do. It's over, you are safe, you are not to blame and you will be okay.”
So what happens if the person you’re talking to on ZEPETO is not who they say they are? What happens when you realize you may have been groomed and are in a tough situation? Or when someone is threatening you to send more pictures or money? What are the next “right steps?”
Immediately stop communicating with the person who is making you uncomfortable. If they continue to reach out, do not respond.
If you have any conversations or interactions that make you feel uneasy, save screenshots or notes as evidence in case you need to report the issue.
Block the Person
Use ZEPETO’s blocking feature to prevent the person from contacting you or accessing your profile.
Report to ZEPETO Safety
Use the platform's reporting feature to inform ZEPETO's moderation team about the situation. They can take appropriate actions to address the issue.
Talk to a Trusted Adult
Share your concerns with a parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. They can offer support, guidance, and help you take the necessary steps.
Use Helplines and Resources
Asking for help is a big step, and we’re here for you. We’ve curated a list of crisis resources by country, where you can find localized help.
Prioritize Your Safety by following SAFER WITH SOTERIA
Learn the safety landscape of ZEPETO by following our Safety Avatar, Soteria. Get up to speed on red flags and tips on keeping your experience on ZEPETO fun and safe.
Remember that you're not alone, and there are people who care about your well-being and are ready to help. It's always better to reach out for assistance if you have any doubts about an online interaction.
Check out other guides!
- Introduction to ZEPETO Safety
- How to practice and inspire digital mindfulness on ZEPETO
- How to approach and solve conflicts on ZEPETO
- What are the risks of platform hopping?