Chating Safely Online for Adults and Children
The Internet is seen as a great source of information for whatever it is you need to find out, but the Internet is so much more. It is also a great communications tool, which allows instantaneous communication anywhere on the planet. Email allows us to send letters in seconds rather than days or weeks. However, the most popular way to communicate is through "Chat Rooms" and "Instant Messaging".
These two forms of communication allow real time interaction with another person, or group of people and as such has great appeal. You can find chat rooms on practically any subject you want. Instant Messaging allows you to see when a person is online and allows you chat one to one. But you must ensure that you are safe.
Most people don’t give a second thought to who they are chatting to. This is because you are chatting via your keyboard in an anonymous chat room, it isn’t the same as meeting someone face to face. The general rule is that you should be as conscious of personal safety online as you are meeting someone new in person.
When you enter a chat room or instant message someone you normally log in using a nickname. It’s easy to create an online persona that may be very different to who you are in the real world. This is part of the fun. But there are less honest people who use their online persona to gain the trust of others in order to commit crimes, or generally make life uncomfortable.
If you are a parent you should be even more vigilant in order to protect your children from those who want to prey on the young online. After all, do you really know that the person your child is talking to is an 8 year old school kid from Florida?
Below are a few tips you should follow to help keep you online time safe and fun.
General Internet safety tips
When you chat online in a chat room or via instant messages never give your name, address, email address, phone number or any other personal details to someone you don’t know or don’t trust.
Use a nickname or alias, this way you can keep your identity safe, and you can change these when you want.
If you agree to meet someone you have met online arrange it in a public place where there are lots of people, for example, a pub or restaurant.
If you are meeting someone always arrange to get to the location and to get home on your own.
Tell your friends and family about who you are chatting to or arranging to meet.
Remember that the person you are chatting to may be pretending to be someone they are not. Use common sense and stay safe!
Extra tips for parents
Keep your Internet PC in a family area, don’t allow your children to surf or chat alone in their bedroom.
Take time to learn about the Internet. Many children are ahead of their parents in terms of technology. You may be tempted to bury your head in the sand. Instead you should take this opportunity to learn from your children. Sit with them, ask questions and surf together. Armed with more knowledge you will be better equipped to spot danger signs.
Educate your children not to give out their name or personal details without asking you first.
Voice based chat rooms are becoming more popular. If your child uses these rooms do not let them use headphones. You should be able to hear everything that is said.
If your child wants to meet someone from the Internet make sure that you go with them.
Talk to your child, let them know that they can come to you if they feel scared or uncomfortable.
Keep things positive, you don’t want to scare them. The Internet is a useful and powerful tool that they shouldn’t be afraid to use.
If you feel that your child is in danger or something is untoward contact your local Police station and report the incident to your Internet provider.
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