Chat is a very popular activity for young people, especially teenagers, but it is also the area where they are most likely to get into trouble. When you're in a chat area, it's easy to forget that you are in a public "place" and that you don't necessarily know the true identity of anyone in the chat room. It's common to "meet" someone in a chat area who gains your confidence by being sympathetic and willing to "listen" to your problems. Children and especially teens need to be extremely careful in chat rooms. They should never reveal their identify and they should never assume that someone is as he or she seems to be. They should NEVER agree to meet someone in person based on a friendly online chat without talking to their parents. If parents agree to the meeting, they or another adult should be present and it should be in a public place.
Ways to avoid problems in chat rooms:
- Do not let your child chat in unmoderated chat rooms. Only allow him or her in rooms run by a reputable company or organization that monitors activity.
- Because many spammers use names they can easily collect from a chat room, consider giving your child a "chat" screen name. This name would be one that is different than their e-mail address. This could help prevent unwanted Spam mail from coming to your child.
- Instruct your child never to give out personal information in a chat room.
- Instruct your child never to agree to get together with anyone they meet in a chat room without first checking with you.
- Talk with your children about the way some people behave in chat rooms. Remind them that people are not always who they seem to be. Remind them to be very careful about people who offer easy solutions to difficult problems or make offers that are "too good to be true."
- Consider using software to block sensitive personal information from being transmitted through your children's chat.