Should Your Child Be Using Instant Messaging & Chat Rooms:

The almost constant use of Internet chat rooms and Instant Messenger programs by both children and teens is a growing trend that shows no signs of stopping. They love to get chat with their friends and it's not uncommon for most teens to run several chat sessions simultaneously.

The downside to this fascination with anonymous online communication is that sometimes kids don't always know whom they are really chatting with.

While it's true that they may have made a new online friend who's the same age that they are, with the same interests and hobbies. But it could just as easily be an Internet pedophile pretending to be a teen in hopes of in snaring your son or daughter.

If you choose to allow your children to use chat or IM at home you should consider these simple precautions:

  1. Know with whom your child is chatting online. If you don't know them or your child refuses to introduce you to them online then they should be blocked from further contact with your child.

  2. Only allow your child to enter moderated chat rooms (i.e. rooms that are supervised by a responsible adult). Many of online service providers such as AOL and MSN offer moderated chat rooms.

  3. Monitor your child's Internet use. Never allow them totally unsupervised access. If you want to give them some privacy make sure you check on every 10 to 15 minutes and that they have no objections to you looking over their shoulder and reading some of their chat history.

Chatting online or using instant messaging, like other aspects of Internet use, should be governed by simple common sense. You wouldn't let your son or daughter talk to a stranger at the mall, why would you allow it on-line?

Gently remind your child that the reality is most people participatingin chat rooms are really strangers no matter how friendly they appear, and are not always who they say they are. And while they may become legitimate online friends down the road, your first contact with them will be with a stranger

Warn your child that they should never give out any personal information, including his or her real name, gender, address,school, or any other clues to their identity, which might allow someone to locate them

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