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Chat Room Safety - Tips and Information

  • Synopsis: Published: 2009-02-02 (Rev. 2017-01-02) - Examines and explains a number of chat room safety issues with children and teens using online chat rooms. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World.

Main Document

"Chat rooms allow you to meet many people you do not know, and while this can lead to fun friendships, it can also be a way for people who mean you harm to gain access to you."

When children are in a chat area they are in a very public "place". They do not necessarily know the true identity of anyone they are talking to in the chat room.

Those who would wish to harm children can prey on those in chat rooms who appear to be left out or lonely. They can pretend to be supportive and sympathetic in order to gain the trust of the young person by being willing to "listen" to their problems and provide friendship.

This question of anonymity has raised major security issues with chat rooms.

There is no way to really believe or trust a person you have never met except through conversation online. Many parents are leery of their children getting sucked into this alternate world, due to the number of pedophiles and perverts that have been caught preying on teens in chat rooms, posing as someone else.

Chat rooms allow you to meet many people you do not know, and while this can lead to fun friendships, it can also be a way for people who mean you harm to gain access to you.

You enter a chat room, strike up a conversation with someone, and before you know it, you have made a new friend. You need to remember that people can pretend to be whoever they want to be online. You may meet someone online who seems sympathetic and understanding, who gives you advice and seems to be your friend.

You can be talking to someone who calls herself Suzy and claims she is 10 years old, who is really a 40-year-old male who is looking to exploit you.

Chat is a very popular activity for young people, especially teenagers, but it is also probably the most dangerous area on the Internet where they are most likely to get into trouble.

There are dozens of means of chatting on the Internet, but no matter how you chat, keep in mind that the Internet is largely anonymous. A friendly stranger in a chat room is still a stranger and not an ideal person for you to trust with your phone number or other personal information.

Some chat rooms are just open conversations with no moderation where everyone has a pretty much equal role; some are moderated by a "leader" who leads the discussion and participants; while others have chaperons or monitors who are responsible for maintaining order and assess what people write before anyone else gets to see it. The monitor can reprimand or even kick someone out of the room who is acting in an inappropriate manner, but he or she can't, however, prevent teens from going off to a private chat area with a person who might do harm to them or put them in danger.

The anonymity of chat rooms can encourage some people to harass others.

More than any other place online, chat rooms are grounds for pedophiles and other predators trying to make contact with young people. In the anonymous atmosphere of the Internet, where kids feel free to be honest, conversations can quickly become intimate. Kids, especially older one, participating in chat rooms they find titillating, may engage in flirting, or even cybersex. It's not uncommon for teens to make "friends" in chat rooms. Teens enter a room; start a conversation with someone who gains their confidence by being sympathetic and willing to "listen" to their problems and offers them wonderful advice or counsel and before they know it, they've established a relationship that can lead to them being cyberstalked, sent pornography, or even pressured to arrange a real-world meeting.

Most chat programs include the option to send private messages, or chat one-on-one.

These private chats are sometimes called instant messages, or buddy chats. Once someone gets you into a private chat, he or she can say anything to you and no one else can see. Sometimes people will include links to offensive material like pornography in their private chat messages. Private chats have been used by pedophiles to lure their victims into talking with them on the telephone and meeting them in person. Do not accept invitations to chat alone with people you do not know.Never give out personal information such as your real name, telephone number, and address. If you live in a small town, it's best to let people know the state you live in.

As a parent it is impossible to monitor what your children do on the PC 100% of the time. With the dangers of online predators growing you should take precautions now to find out if there is a problem before it's too late.

Before You Chat

When you participate in online chats, you will need to adhere to particular rules and etiquette guidelines. It is important to learn chat etiquette, especially if you want to make your chat experience more enjoyable.

Entering a chat room

When you first enter a chat room, it is a good idea to say "Hello" to everybody. Take a while to observe how people interact in the chat room, before you take part in the conversation.

In a Chat

Be careful of what you say in a chat. Because others can not hear your voice or see your face, it is possible that your comments can be misconstrued. Use "emoticons" and other chat expressions wherever possible. If someone is annoying you, you can "Ignore" them. Every chat and instant messenger has an "Ignore" feature. If you don't know how to Ignore someone, read the chat's help feature.

Chat and Dating

Meeting other singles via online dating can be a lot of fun. You should make sure that you are familiar with how to chat. Chatting on the Internet can happen in chat rooms, or via instant messenger programs. When you chat online, you will need to use a "handle" or "nickname" to identify yourself. You may also be asked to provide other details such as age, location, and interests. Providing this extra information is optional.

Many people use chat rooms as a way to meet members of the opposite sex and flirt. It can be difficult to stay away from these people in chat rooms. It is generally safer to find a chat room with a purpose or topic. Chat rooms with the word "chat" in their titles, like "teenchat," "chatmongers," or "nicechat," usually involve quite a bit of flirting or sexual talk.

Another signal that this type of chatting is going on is when you see people asking "m/f" in a chat-they are asking you what gender you are. Once you admit to people in these types of chat rooms that you are female, you may start receiving private messages that are sexually explicit or harassing. Chats with a purpose, such as chats about hobbies or computer games, are going to be a lot less harassing than a chat without a topic.

Safety Tips

Never say anything in a chat room that you would not say in public. Never give out personal information, like your name, home address, school address, where you'll be that afternoon, your telephone number, your personal email address (give them a public address), or any other information that could help someone figure out your actual identity (or anyone else's). See our article on Chat Room Security.

Leave a chat immediately if someone makes you uncomfortable, starts asking you too many personal questions, is sexually explicit, or starts to harass you. Ignore invitations to chat privately with people you do not know.

On IRC you can start your own chat room, or channel. You can even create a private channel that no one can see, so that you and your friends can chat in a private, harassment-free channel. You can create a password for your channel as well. This means that you can create a chat room for you and your friends, and kick anyone out who joins in and acts in an offensive way.

Choose your handle wisely. If you choose a female-sounding handle, like "Cindy64," you may be the target of unwanted behavior such as insults, sexual propositions, or even stalking. If you choose a gender-neutral name, like "csx22," or "raver," it is likely that most people will assume you are male, depending on the chat room you are in. On the downside, this can make females feel like they are hiding their true identity as females.

Never Meet in Person

Never arrange to meet someone in person who you have met online without taking certain safety steps. It may be tempting to get together with friends you have made online: you may feel that your online friends really know and understand you. However, meeting someone in person who you have met online is the biggest threat to your safety. Remember, people you meet online may not be who they say they are. If you feel that it is appropriate to meet someone in person never go to the meeting by yourself, and arrange to meet in a public place that you are familiar with. Alternatively, you can arrange to meet the person in a group of your own friends.

Basic Chat room Safety

  • Do not reveal information about yourself, your friends or family.
  • Chat in only in chat rooms run by a reputable company or organization that monitors activity.
  • Chat rooms are sometimes organized around topics, so avoid topics that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Do not respond to messages that make you feel uncomfortable or frightened.
  • Do not arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone you meet in a chat room without informing a parent or other adult first.
  • Remember that some people are not always who they seem to be in a chat room.
  • Be very careful about people who offer easy solutions to difficult problems or make offers that are "too good to be true".
  • Be suspicious of anyone who tries to turn you against your parents, teachers, or friends. They may have a hidden agenda.
  • Avoid harassment (it applies especially for women and girls) by choosing a gender-neutral nickname - like your initials or a word - to use in a chat room so that no one can tell whether you're male or female.

Security in Chat Rooms

There are some key tips to remember in chat rooms. Never reveal any pertinent information about yourself, such as exact location, full name, social security number, telephone number, etc. The most important rule when exploring chat rooms though is to never agree to meet someone outside of the chat room. By revealing any of this information you are putting yourself at risk to be stalked and possibly have your identity stolen by a hacker.

Identity Theft in Chat Rooms:

Chat rooms can be havens for hackers, looking for vulnerable users with information to lose. This type of fraud known as identity theft is becoming more common. Hackers prey on users, getting any information they can (social security, address, telephone number) and they in turn go to a Hacker chat room, using an internet relay chat that allows more anonymity, and try to sell the information. Many naive computer users have lost credit cards through this type of communication to scammers.

Identity theft and this form of fraud are extremely hard to detect and track. The internet provides such a vast world to look out for that is impossible for the FBI or CIA to watch over every user. That is why it is so important to be careful what you reveal about yourself online.



Related:

  1. Chat Rooms Freedom of Speech and Bans - Examines the concept of freedom of speech and banning users in chat rooms resulting in arguments and ISP disconnections - Ian Langtree
  2. List of Text Shortcuts for Chat Messengers & SMS Texting - Shortcut list of the common acronyms and abbreviations used in chat rooms SMS messages on cell phones and instant messengers such as Yahoo and MSN - Ian Langtree
  3. Disability Chat Including Health Chat for Disabled - Health and disability chat rooms for the disabled and people with disabilities to discuss news and health issues - Disabled World

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