Online chatting can be a great way to stay in touch with relatives who live far away or friends with busy lives. Chat rooms are also popular places to meet and talk to new people. But there comes a time when chat rooms and online chatting can become dangerous. Once you stop following rules that will keep you safe online, chatting isn’t fun any more. If you want to keep safe while chatting online, start by following these simple rules:
Rule #1 — Protect your identity
Your identity is the one thing that you must guard most closely when you are online. There are several different types of online predators who seek to take advantage of people through online chats. Protecting your identity will keep you safe from most of the threats that you may receive. When you are chatting you may have the sense of mind to know not to give out your address and you may even know not to give out your phone number, but being even more cautious is advised. Your town, place of work, or school name can also give hints as to your identity. Victims of identity theft or online chat room predators are often surprised at how little information their predator needed to find out even more personal information about them. Use an alias online. Do not even use your real name if you really want to play it safe. Always keep anonymity as a goal when you are chatting online.
Rule #2 — Teach your children rules of online safety
Children are naturally trusting in nature and have not been exposed to the harsh realities of the need to be wary of other people in the same way that most adults have. As a result, children are very easy targets for predators. A predator can pretend to be anyone he wishes. Unless you have met your child’s online friends in person, there is really no way to know which ones really are who they say they are and which ones are lying. Teach your children that they should never give out information to people online that mom and dad have not met. Let them know that if they do come across something that makes them uncomfortable when they are in a chat room, that they should come to you, the parents, and talk about it.
Rule #3 — Set limits, block, filter, and monitor
To protect both you and your children you need to ensure that your computer is equipped with filters, firewalls, and monitoring software to protect yourself from both the predators that you will and won’t know about when you are online. Many newer computers come standard with such safety features.
Rule #4 — Do not get too involved
Never meet in person someone you only know from an online chat room. A predator is going to work very hard to gain your trust before he makes any type of hostile move. Predators are skilled at telling you what you want to hear and getting you to like them. Once they feel like they have gained your trust, they will begin to ask you questions or ask for information that may make you uncomfortable. It is at a point such as this that you must be willing and aware enough to be able to cut off communication with this individual. Coming up with excuses or refuting a predator’s request online will only make him try harder to weaken your resolve. Online chatting becomes very dangerous when a child or adult needs that chat room environment so badly that they are willing to set aside better judgment for social involvement.