The importance of keeping safety in mind while chatting is equally important for children and adults. As an adult, you cannot expect to be able to “be smarter” than a predator or have the perfect “intuition” to simply know when you are and when you are not chatting with a person who is safe. Chat rooms can be great fun, and there are plenty of people who have used chat rooms for years and have never encountered problems. However, for the unlucky few who are targets by predators, it would be to your advantage to know what you can do to keep yourself safe.
Do not give out personal information
The first and most important safety rule for chatting online is to never give out any personal information. Guard your identity the same way that you would guard your credit card numbers or your social security card. You would be amazed at the kind of damage that can be done with a name and a birthday or even a city of residence. If you are asked for personal information, do not answer! Parents should teach their children about this important rule. Some parents find it appropriate and in the child’s best interest to occasionally monitor their child’s chat messages to ensure that no inappropriate or personal information is being disclosed. You should never give any one enough information to connect your chat room conversations to your own personal identity.
Know the focus of your chat site
Chat rooms and blog sites are usually geared to a certain group of people. Some chat rooms are just for children, others are for Star Wars enthusiasts; a very popular type of chat room involves on-line dating and many more chat rooms are separated into age groups. Before you enter a chat room, know what type of person is generally going to be in that chat room. Obviously this is not going to keep you safe from all predators as predators frequently conceal their real identities. However, you are less likely to get yourself into a compromising situation if you are in a chat room that you are comfortable with in the first place.
Use moderated chat rooms
A moderated chat room is a chat room where there is a moderator or a group of moderators who defend you from unwanted or inappropriate messages form other users. It works much the same way as a filter and provides you with added protection against inappropriate materials that are distributed by predators of a different sort.
Do not get too involved
Many people put themselves in unsafe situations because they get too involved with the person that they think they are chatting with and they let their guard down. Chat rooms should remain recreational. You have to be able to walk away from an online contact if they begin harassing you or asking you personal questions or any other kinds of questions that you do not feel comfortable answering. Remember that unless you have met the person that you are chatting with face to face, you can never really know who is on the other side of your Internet conversation.
You must always keep these and other safety rules at the back of your mind when you are chatting. Chatting can be great fun, but not if you put yourself in harm’s way. Parents, make sure that your children feel comfortable coming to you if they have an uncomfortable experience online. Do not hesitate to contact the chat room operator or mediator if you encounter a problem. Let good sense and caution guide your actions as you continue to chat safely online.