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Children and Online Chat Rooms: The Dangers That Lurk

Children and Online Chat Rooms: The Dangers That Lurk

Are you the parent of a child or a teenager who wants to use internet chat rooms?  Or, is your child already using them?  If so, it is important that both you and your child know the dangers that often lurk around online chat rooms. 

For starters, it is important to know that the computer and internet makes it easy for someone to be anyone they want to.  In fact, an internet user can claim to be someone famous, a superhero, or another teenager.  There is nothing out there that can stop them.  If your child is using a chat room for teenagers or younger children, they need to know the dangers of exchanging personal information with strangers or “online friends.”  Because, anyone can be at the other end of the computer.

Another common danger of using online chat rooms is the screen names.  Screen names are what is used to identity your child and differentiate them from other chat room users.  If you allow your child to use an online chat room, there is one internet safety step that must be taken.  Have your child create a separate screen name that will not be used elsewhere.  If they use part of their email address, a screen name that appears on other websites or online message boards, or part of their full name, a standard internet search could lead internet predators to your child’s real identity.

It is also important to know that anyone can get into a chat room.  Unfortunately, this is an important internet safety fact that many parents do not realize.  Just because your teenager is in an online chat room that is designed for kids between the ages of 14 to 17, it doesn’t mean that everyone is the same age in the room.  No age verification is required to get into most online chat rooms.  As it was previously stated, the internet makes it easy for anyone to create a false identity.  This false identity can be used to lure in your child and other young internet users.

One of the reasons why children and teenagers like to use internet chat rooms is because it automatically connects them with a number of other internet users.  In fact, an online chat room could have as many as one hundred or more internet users talking in it.  Unfortunately, many parents do not realize that some chat rooms have private messaging programs available.  This means that a person, who may actually be a 50 or 60 years old man or woman, could send a private message and communicate directly with your child.  This is actually how many teenagers and children get into trouble with online predators.

As you can see, there are a number of dangers that lurk around internet chat rooms.  Does this mean that your child shouldn’t use them?  In all honesty, the decision is yours to make, as you are the parent.  With that said, a number of factors should be taken into consideration, such as your child’s age and maturity level.  Do you trust your child to follow the rules that you set in place concerning internet use and the use of online chat rooms?

Speaking of rules, be sure to have them if you let or know that your son or daughter is using internet chat rooms.  Do not let them visit chat rooms that are designed for adults only.  This makes them an easy target.  Also, be sure they know that just because someone claims to be a 15 year old boy or girl, it doesn’t mean that they are.  They should also never send out pictures or videos of themselves, even when asked, and no other personal information should be exchanged.

If internet chat rooms concern you, which they should, you may want to point your child in the direction of online message boards instead.  Online message boards, also commonly referred to as online forums, are different as the information appears as separate posts, as opposed to live chats.  While there are no guarantees, you will find that most online message boards, especially those that are designed for children and teenagers are monitored by a trusted adult.  This means that offensive posts should be removed in a timely matter.

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