Chat Room Safety
Chat rooms are a great way for us to stay in contact with people who share similar interests or hobbies; however chat room safety is key to having a safe online experience as they can also be a source of danger for many children because of their informal, interactive and impulsive nature.
Your child may be chatting with a friend from school when suddenly a stranger opens a dialog section and asks to chat in private. An adult can ignore or block the stranger out, but in most cases, a youngster can just go with the flow and chat away with not only a complete stranger but a potential child molester attempting to befriend them. Knowing what not to do and practicing chat room safety becomes important in such situations.
There are some signs that your child is chatting with a potentially high risk individual online that are common and if you know what they are you can be on the look-out for such situations along with talking to your child about personal safety before they begin to use the Internet. If your child starts spending too much time on the computer in chat rooms, is reluctant about telling you who it is they are speaking with, and/or are receiving calls and packages in the mail or other forms of contact may all be warning signs to watch out for. These are situations where you must intervene immediately.
Even though chat rooms usually have moderators, who can prevent someone from using the chat room due to misconduct or crude language, they cannot stop anyone from chatting in private with another user, giving more room for a predator to get to your child. This is why you will need your own set of rules regarding chat room safety.
Always put your chat settings on the option to save all conversations~Every Instant Messaging platform provides users with the option of saving all chats or not. You will need this evidence to moderate their use and if they are older and you do not want to invade their privacy you can simply state it is a security procedure and the content will only be reviewed in the event you or authorities must go back and review the content. Such information is very helpful to the police in case your child is victimized by cyber bullies or contacted by a potential child molester.
Always decline all requests for personal information~Questions containing abbreviations such as ASL (Age, Sex, Location), WITW (Where in the World), WUF (Where are you from), and many others should NEVER EVER be answered. At New Child Safety, we strongly encourage not answering these types of questions at all but we realize some people will find that too restrictive. Make sure if you do provide any details it is very very vague. You may be surprised how easy it is for potential predators to put pieces of information together than may by themselves seem quite unrelated. Such details are revealed personally between chat room users all the time and are so commonplace that users are accustomed to answering them without considering the consequences. You will need to familiarize with chat and text lingo to know which questions to avoid.
Always use usernames or nicknames that have no relationship to your real name~It will require creativity to come up with a unique name for use in chat rooms, but it will provide security and anonymity to the user. Many predators get lucky by finding victims whose real name is incorporated in the chat nickname, creating a false familiarity that catches the victim off guard. Your goal is to remain as unrecognizable as possible while online.
Always report any case of chat room harassment to the authorities~If your child has been victimized online while chatting and all efforts such as changing usernames and blocking the person have not been successful, report to the chat platform and to the police. The saved chat conversations are evidence and theIP address of the chat user can be used to find an exact location of the perpetrator. Many people are unaware that a potential predator does not need to meet your child in order for a criminal charge to apply to their behavior under certain circumstances (See Stranger Danger ).
Never allow your child to meet a chatting acquaintance without your accompaniment~If your child is invited to meet up with someone they have been chatting with they must always tell you about it and it remains clear that they can never ever go to a meeting. You will need to have established the rules about chat room safety and insist these safety rules are followed at all times while on the Internet~No exceptions.
Apply these same rules when chatting on mobile phones~A chat room is a chat room, regardless of whether it is on a computer or cell phone. You can control the use of computers in the home by monitoring your child’s frequency of chatting, but it is much harder with mobile phone chatting due to the portability of the devices. Your child should, therefore, understand that the rules around personal safety and socializing online also apply to a cell phone. Today our children have full Internet access on most their cell phones and you need to be aware of the technology. It may appear to you that they are at home, texting on their cell phone with a friend when in fact they are on their social networking account on their phone.