Chat rooms can be a great online space to hang out for kids and especially teens who share similar interests, thoughts or experiences. But at the same time, the same place can be a dark and dingy alley infested with online predators. This post gives you an insight into some of the most common dangers of online chat rooms that kids and teens are exposed to, and some tips for parents.
The Dangers of Online Chat Rooms
Remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood? Remember who she thought to be her grandma, turned out to be the Big Bad Wolf? Chat rooms are no less different from this story. In chat rooms, there is a wall between the people who are chatting and getting acquainted with each other. And this is where the danger lurks.
Who is your Stranger Chat Buddy?
How well does a kid or teen know about their chat buddy? Are they their classmate, someone from their school or college, or neighborhood? Or, are they a complete stranger offering friendship by pretending to have a “listening ear” and “caring heart”? Such actions of online predators to strike an emotional chord with a child, is usually termed as child grooming.
A lonely child, who is having a hard time at school or even at home, may easily find solace in sharing their feelings with someone who “seems” to care and understand them. And most of the time, such “kind and sympathetic” strangers turn out to be pedophiles, drug dealers, cyber criminals, and online stalkers, putting up in some dark and dingy corner of the town and waiting to get some fresh prey to fall into their trap.
It is not necessary that every stranger someone meets in a chat room is a sexual predator. The world is not such a bad place. There are good strangers too; strangers who do innocent, clean, happy and funny talking. And when such a stranger begins to look like an oh-my-god-he-is-such-a-darling kind of person, the victim clicks on a link forwarded by them and boom! The next thing that might pop up is a black-blue-and-red flashy thing on the computer. Could that be a virus attack? What happened there? Looks like the darling friend gave the victim a malware in gift! So, some strangers can do better than being sexual offenders you see.
Social platforms such as chat rooms can be dangerously addictive. They can not only hamper a student’s academic life, but may also push them into a world of social aloofness. Eventually, such kids or teens may detach themselves from the real world.
Some Tips for Parents
- Place the computer in the living room, instead of your child’s bedroom. Sometimes your mere presence is good enough to keep them going to the bad places online.
- Get involved in constructive online activities with your child. Know what their favorite sites are and share your favorite ones with them.
- Educate your children about the dangers of revealing personal information (of any kind) on the internet.
- Never let your child meet someone they have just met online. But, if you can’t help the situation, then either tag along or ask your child to bring along some of their friends. And make sure they meet in a public place.
- Look out for any abnormal behavioral changes in your child, towards you or their social environment. Research says, online predators often try to turn kids and teens against their parents, teachers, and friends.
- Utilize a reliable parental control tool. You can use such tools to monitor your child’s online activities and filter inappropriate websites.
- As discussed, chat rooms are one of the many mediums hackers use, to drop malware in a victim’s computer. So, it is imperative that you keep your machine and its security software up-to-date.
Making children aware about the dangers of the Internet is easier said than done. It is a continuous process that requires your constant effort. Merely putting restrictions won’t help; understanding your child’s needs, interest, and curiosity is also crucial.