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Internet Safety for Kids: Online Chat Rooms versus Online Message Boards

Are you the parent of a teenager or a child who would like to use the internet to meet and communicate with others who share similar interests?  If so, your child may be interested in using an online chat room.  Although online chat rooms are a nice and easy way to talk, it is important to remember that not all online chat rooms are safe.  That is why many parents often opt for message boards instead, but is it really a safer option?

Even if you aren’t an avid internet user yourself, you likely know that online message boards and online chat rooms are different.  Online chat rooms have live communication appearing on the screen.  Conversations are held at that very moment.  Instead, online message boards involve communications that may carry on for days or even weeks.   There are also more detailed and themed discussed that occur on message boards, as opposed to chat rooms.  Common topics discussed include homework, parents, pets, music and sports.

As for why some parents prefer online message boards, as opposed to internet chat rooms, it is because the conversations are not live.  Yes, multiple posters may be online at the same time, but it is common for someone to post a topic and not get a response for a few hours or even a day or two.  In fact, if your child makes a post about their new pet, someone may ask about their pet or congratulate them when they aren’t even online themselves. This gives many parents comfort and peace of mind.

Another reason why some parents prefer letting their children use online message boards, as opposed to online chat rooms, is because most message boards are monitored by a trusted adult, who is sometimes paid for their work.  This means that all offensive posts should be removed in a relatively short period of time.  Many times, the moderator will also ban that user from returning.

In keeping with the monitoring of content, is important to remember that not all message boards are moderated.  You will, however, find that a good percentage are.  In fact, most message boards for adults also have someone who reviews the content.  With that said, there is no harm in checking.  In fact, the same should be done with internet chat rooms.

If a chat room for children or teenagers is only open for a few hours a day, as opposed to 24 hours a day, there is a good chance that a monitor is present.  This may give you some comfort and peace of mind.  Also, be sure to examine internet chat rooms and message boards for kids that do not allow other users to privately communicate with each other through the use of private messages, also commonly known as a PM.

Whether you let your child use an online chat room or an online message board, you should first check it out for yourself.  Visit a chat room.  Do not talk to anyone, but see for about five minutes what type of content is being talked about.  The same should be done with online message boards for kids.  Do you think that the content is safe or do any chatters or posters seem too mature for the room or message board?

As for how you can go about finding online message boards and chat rooms that are safe for your child to visit or to checkout for yourself first, you may want to perform a standard internet search.  Search with a phrase like “safe online messages boards for children”.  There are also television networks, like Nick and The N, which are designed for both teens and tweens, that have online message boards.  They can allow your child to chat with others who like the same shows.

As highlighted above, internet chat rooms and online message boards can be safe for your child to use, as long as they know the dangers.  Also, be sure to checkup on your child from time to time.  Make sure that they are using a safe message board and chat room and make sure that they aren’t exchanging personal information online.

Should You Let Your Child Use an Internet Chat Room?   Are you the parent of a child who has recently decided that they want to use internet chat rooms?  Or, are you a parent who has just learned that your child has been using internet chat rooms?  If you are, you may be unsure as to how you should proceed.  Yes, internet chat rooms are a great way to make new friends online, but they can be dangerous.  So, should you let your child use online chat rooms?

When it comes to determining if your child is ready to use online chat rooms, it is best to examine the pros and cons of them.  For starters, there are chat rooms out there that are designed for children and teenagers.  By visiting these chat rooms, your child should be paired with their peers.  They may also be able to make new online friends and communicate with their friends from school easily online.

Meeting new friends online and communicating with current friends over the internet, by way of internet chat rooms, is nice.  It, however, is also important to remember that there are dangers to doing so as well.  Aditionally, it is important to remember that anyone can get into a chat room.  Just because a chat room that your child uses is designed for kids between the ages of 8 and 15, it doesn’t mean that everyone in that chat room falls into that age range.

As for why it is easy for an adult to get into a chat room and pretend to be a child it is because not all internet chat rooms are monitored.  With that said, you should be able to find a number of chat rooms for children and teens that are monitored.  This means that an adult will be there watching all conversations to make sure that they are appropriate.  Remember though that an adult pretending to be a child may be able to slide under the radar.

As previously stated, an adult could easily pretend to be a child, enter a chat room for children, and target those in the room.  This is easy for many internet predators to do because the internet makes it very simple for children to be targeted.  A whole new, false identity can be created and you and your child may never know until it is too late.

Despite the fact that there are a number of cons or downsides to letting children and teenagers use internet chat rooms, many parents still let their children do so.  If you want to be one of those parents, that is fine, but be sure that both you and your child know the dangers that lurk.  Make sure they know not to give out personal information in a chat room because the person on the other end of the computer may not be who they say they are.

Also, for your child’s protection, find internet chat rooms for them to use.  Even if your child knows that dangers lurk, they may still opt for the most popular chat rooms, even if they arenít very safe.  When searching for safe chat rooms for your child to use, start with a standard internet search.  Next, look for those that have staffed monitors, as well as those that do not have private messaging features.

For added safety and security, have your computer in a well trafficked location.  This is likely to reduce the amount of time that they spend in a chat room, as they may feel like they are being watched.  You can also limit the use of chat rooms unless you are home or in the same room.  Of course, you can ban your child from visiting online chat rooms if you wish, as you do have the right to do so.

As a reminder, be sure to talk to your child or teenager about the dangers of communicating with strangers on the internet.  Having online friends are nice, but make sure your child knows that they should stay just that “online”, friends.

Children and Online Chat Rooms: The Dangers That Lurk   Are you the parent of a child or a teenager who wants to use internet chat rooms?  Or, is your child already using them?  If so, it is important that both you and your child know the dangers that often lurk around online chat rooms.

For starters, it is important to know that the computer and internet makes it easy for someone to be anyone they want to.  In fact, an internet user can claim to be someone famous, a superhero, or another teenager.  There is nothing out there that can stop them.  If your child is using a chat room for teenagers or younger children, they need to know the dangers of exchanging personal information with strangers or “online friends”.  Because, anyone can be at the other end of the computer.

Another common danger of using online chat rooms is the screen names.  Screen names are what is used to identity your child and differentiate them from other chat room users.  If you allow your child to use an online chat room, there is one internet safety step that must be taken.  Have your child create a separate screen name that will not be used elsewhere.  If they use part of their email address, a screen name that appears on other websites or online message boards, or part of their full name, a standard internet search could lead internet predators to your child’s real identity.

It is also important to know that anyone can get into a chat room.  Unfortunately, this is an important internet safety fact that many parents do not realize.  Just because your teenager is in an online chat room that is designed for kids between the ages of 14 to 17, it doesnít mean that everyone is the same age in the room.  No age verification is required to get into most online chat rooms.  As it was previously stated, the internet makes it easy for anyone to create a false identity.  This false identity can be used to lure in your child and other young internet users.

One of the reasons why children and teenagers like to use internet chat rooms is because it automatically connects them with a number of other internet users.  In fact, an online chat room could have as many as one hundred or more internet users talking in it.  Unfortunately, many parents do not realize that some chat rooms have private messaging programs available.  This means that a person, who may actually be a 50 or 60 years old man or woman, could send a private message and communicate directly with your child.  This is actually how many teenagers and children get into trouble with online predators.

As you can see, there are a number of dangers that lurk around internet chat rooms.  Does this mean that your child shouldn’t use them?  In all honesty, the decision is yours to make, as you are the parent.  With that said, a number of factors should be taken into consideration, such as your child’s age and maturity level.  Do you trust your child to follow the rules that you set in place concerning internet use and the use of online chat rooms?

Speaking of rules, be sure to have them if you let or know that your son or daughter is using internet chat rooms.  Do not let them visit chat rooms that are designed for adults only.  This makes them an easy target.  Also, be sure they know that just because someone claims to be a 15 year old boy or girl, it doesn’t mean that they are.  They should also never send out pictures or videos of themselves, even when asked, and no other personal information should be exchanged.

If internet chat rooms concern you, which they should, you may want to point your child in the direction of online message boards instead.  Online message boards, also commonly referred to as online forums, are different as the information appears as separate posts, as opposed to live chats. While there are no guarantees, you will find that most online message boards, especially those that are designed for children and teenagers are monitored by a trusted adult.  This means that offensive posts should be removed in a timely matter.

Internet Safety for Kids: Rules to Set for Online Message Boards and Chat Rooms  Is your child or teenager interested in meeting new people online?  At this age, they aren’t very likely to meet the person in real life, but communicate through way of the internet instead.  As nice as this sounds, it is important to remember that it can still be dangerous.  Just because your child is talking to someone who claims to be another teenager, it doesnít necessarily mean that they are.

Since it is relatively easy for false identities to be created online, especially for internet and child predators, you will want to set strict rules if you intend to let your child use online message boards and internet chat rooms to do this communicating.  As for what you rules you should set, it will honestly depend on your child’s age.  Teenagers may have a little bit more freedom, but still don’t let them use online chat rooms, online message boards, or the internet in general without at least a few rules.

One of the many rules that you may want to impose, concerning internet chat rooms and online message boards is approval.  Instead of letting your child pick which websites they want to visit, you can do so for them.  Favorite place the approved message boards and online chat rooms so that your child can easily find them.

As for how you can find safe chat rooms and message boards for your child to use, you will want to get started with a standard internet search.  Closely examine all of the websites that appear on your screen.  Are private messages allowed?  Most chat rooms and message boards for kids have them disabled, as this is how many internet predators target children.  Also, look for moderated forums and chat rooms, as this means that all content is reviewed by an adult.

You may also want to set rules as to when your child can use an online message board or an internet chat room.  For example, only allow your child to communicate and socialize online when you are at home or even in the same room.  This internet safety for kids step works pretty well, especially for teenagers.  They are less likely to have adult conversations, share personal information, or exchange pictures or videos when you are in the same room or when they know that they are being watched.

It is also a good idea to limit the amount of time that your child can use online message boards or internet chat rooms.  It often takes internet predators more than one discussion to gain the trust of a child target.  For that reason, you will want to be cautious if your child signs onto the internet at the same time everyday.  Ask your child if they can wait until later or start using the internet earlier.  If they can’t or don’t want to, they may be meeting someone online to talk directly to.  That is why it is always a good idea to limit when your child can use online message boards and chat rooms and for how long.

You should prohibit your child from posting pictures or videos of themselves online, as this makes them an easy target.  If your child wants to post a picture, have them pick out a generic picture online, of like a football or a flower.  Also, do not let your child exchange personal information online. Remember that they are not the only ones in danger if your child gives away your address or phone number, as the rest of your family may end up in danger as well.