Chatting online can forge new relationships and keep you in touch with your acquaintances. There is a large online community of anonymous strangers and unfiltered, unmoderated discussions. You need to be aware of the potential risks of using chatrooms, and how to overcome them. Predators always take advantage of those who don’t know how to protect themselves.
Be aware of the risks:
- You might encounter offensive, violent, sexual or racist comments, or meet people with hateful attitudes.
- Strangers in chat rooms may have bad intentions, such as cyber stalkers, extortionists or sexual predators.
- Teenagers and children may be lured into inappropriate conversations.
- You might get tricked into revealing your personal or financial information, or get lured by international drug syndicates.
- Be aware of who you think you know or trust. Remember that some online friends are really strangers.
- Don’t share anything you wouldn’t want the public to know – this includes your real name, date of birth, phone number, location, any identifying information or photograph.
- Be very careful if you plan to meet someone you’ve only met online. Always meet in a public place and take someone with you.
- Never accept files that you aren’t expecting. It may be a virus, spam or other malicious material.
- Do not click on untrusted links.
Chat room behaviour
- Think before you send a message. Remember that what you say in a chat room or instant message is live – you can’t take it back or delete it later.
- Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in real life. Remember that your online reputation will affect your reputation in real life.
- Do not respond when someone is trying to start an argument or uses insulting or bad language.
- Don’t post negative or personal information about others without their permission.
- Remember that you can always log out to avoid unwanted situations. You can also block people you don’t want to chat with.
- If you would like to report something, remember to save a copy of the conversation as evidence. If people are breaking the rules, you can report them to the chatroom provider.
Tips for parents
- Try to keep in touch with what your kids are doing online. Be mindful if they always keep the door shut or turn off the monitor the moment you walk in the door.
- Talk to your kids about Internet safety. Your kids might not like the conversation, but it’s worth reminding them even if they’re tired of hearing about it.
- Be aware that there are cyber bullies out there. Encourage your child to speak openly with you if they encounter any threatening or unwanted behaviour online.