Protecting Children In Chat Rooms
Protecting Children In Chat Rooms
Ward Leber (CEO) gives expert video advice on: What should I warn my child about instant messaging?; How do I monitor my child's chats and IMs?; Should I warn my child that I am monitoring his chats or IMs? and more...
What is a 'chat room'?
A chat room is a location on the internet which is usually topic driven, where there are people of a certain age or a certain topic that they want to chat about. Anyone can anonymously add a statement to the topic that's going on. So it's sort of like being in a giant room with a conversation going on and anybody who wants to chime in can do it.
What is 'instant messaging' or 'IM'?
Instant messaging is a way of digitally transmitting a message to someone's wireless or their hardwired equipment. You can send a message either to somebody's cell phone or to their email service. An instant message means it's getting there right away. So if I want you to know something and I either text message you or IM you, I'm going to be sending some information I want you to have and you're going to be getting it immediately.
What is 'IM shorthand'?
Internet shorthand is usually people who want to use less keystrokes in order to get a message across, or that they want to use codes to conceal their message. So an example would be very long words that you don't need to use grammar to spell. So, you would use less letters in that word, use less text messaging and therefore it gets there faster. But more often what is happening is that kids are using their own language. So, let's say I'm instant messaging someone I'm not supposed to talk to, or texting them, and I type "POS". That means "parent over shoulder." That means "I'm being watched" and most parents won't know the kids' shorthand's or language. Also they'll ask for your age, sex, and location. So when they say ASL, and they're sending that to your kid, they're asking them their age, their sex and their location. So there are hundreds of different types of acronyms that they use in order to have their own language. And as a parent you need to find out what those things are. You can actually look up what ASL equals. There's a variety of websites will tell you what the acronyms mean for internet shorthand.
What are the dangers of chat rooms and instant messaging?
The dangers of chat rooms and instant messaging are all the same as the dangers of actually meeting some stranger or somebody who could be dangerous. You're in contact with people where you really have a huge veil. You don't know whether or not these people that you're chatting with are anything like the people that they say they are. They can say they're a man and they're really a female, they can say they're a kid and they're really an adult. You really don't know who you're chatting with. If it's a personal friend of yours and you're instant messaging talking to him, such as some kid that you know at school, that's okay, depending on what you're chatting about. At least you know who they are. The biggest danger is trying to communicate with people where you don't know who they really are and you don't know their intentions.
How can sharing information on the internet be dangerous?
The reason information that you list can be dangerous is for example let's say you have a profile on MySpace or on any other of those types of systems where you want to talk about music, you want to talk about things that you like and what you're interested in and that sort of thing. That on its face is pretty cool it's a nice way to you know talk about what you're interested in. But it can also be used by paedophiles to get to know you well enough to trick you into a dangerous situation. As an example, if I happen to know you're a 14 year old kid and your favourite band is whoever they happen to be I'm going to use that to get a hold of you I may have tickets to that concert I may have all of the most recent CDs from that artist and I may want to meet you because I can give them to you I'm no longer interested in them. A lot of times getting personal information about where somebody lives, or what their habits might be or what their special interests are exactly the way a paedophile would get a hold of a child and trick them into dangerous situations.
What should I warn my child about instant messaging?
Warning people about instant messaging is really about the content that is contained in the instant message. You need to know who you are talking to. There is a lot of different messaging that you can do where kids will see a television commercial and it will tell them to instant message a number to receive today's latest joke. It actually may not be today's latest joke. It could be today's latest pornography or it may put them in contact with amazingly expensive charges. A lot of the instant messaging that goes out there doesn't show up on your phone bill. Parents need to know exactly what they are Instant Messaging. With my kids, I don't let them download anything. I just call the cellular provider and say they are not allowed to buy any downloads or cause any electronic debt on that phone. They can still do certain things with it like call me or call their friends, but they can't incur any new phone charges and they also can't come into contact with people that I don't want them to instant message.
Should I warn my child that I am monitoring his chats or IMs?
You should never tell your child that you're monitoring their chats or their Instant Messenger. The reason you shouldn't do that is because that will be the last time that you ever get to use that resource. Kids are really smart. If you put that software on their system, they'll just go to their friend's house and start chatting and Instant Messaging from there. Or they'll go to the Cyber Cafe at the local mall. But, whatever you do, if you explain to them how you know what they're up to, don't tell them you're monitoring it. Don't tell them you're monitoring every keystroke. Because, number one, the trust issue is going to be a problem for you. But, most importantly, that resource is over. Kids are too smart. They'll figure out how to get a new email address that you don't know about.