Most parents establishing chat room safety tips for their children warn them about not giving out personal information, such as their addresses, the names of their schools or their own second names. But do we pay enough attention to the way they name other people?
Although children generally refer to themselves and their friends using their first names or nicknames only, they usually refer to teachers by their second names. This is behavior which is enforced at school as a matter of politeness and it can be a difficult habit to break in other environments. But by looking up teachers’ names, especially if more than one teacher is mentioned, it’s easy for an internet predator to establish where your children go to school.
Exchanging praise and complaints about teachers is a routine part of children’s social lives and an activity which they’ll be keen to extend online, as their interactions with teachers are an important part of how they learn to cope with authority and with the adult world in general. For this reason, they’ll find it difficult to avoid mentioning their teachers online altogether. As you won’t want to encourage them to invent nicknames which could be considered inappropriate when used in real life, the easiest solution is for them to refer to teachers by their initials, such as ‘Mrs. A’. They should be advised that this is the right way to talk about teachers in chat rooms, and that it’s different from real life. After all, the identity of these teachers will still be clear to other kids from the same school.
Keeping the identity of schools secret is among the most important online safety tips. By encouraging children to abbreviate teachers’ names, you help them to identify more effectively the sort of general information which they should be keeping secret in order to keep themselves safe.