If you’re a concerned parent, you’ll be doing your utmost to make sure your kids are safe when they go online – but sometimes there can be risks which neither you nor they might have thought of.
Chat room safety tips normally revolve around protecting children from adult predators, but it’s worth remembering that children can be predators too. Children who threaten and bully others at school and on the streets are increasingly moving their activities online.
This way, they can cause severe distress by persecuting children even in the places where they should feel safest – their own homes. If your child is using online chat rooms, it’s important for you to make sure they realize that bullies may be there too.
The trouble with most chat rooms is that it’s impossible to be sure of the identities of the people you’re speaking to. What’s more, you can’t tell who else might be lurking there observing the conversation – listening in, as it were.
Discussions which feel as if they are private can in fact be witnessed by many others. A popular trick with bullies is to wait in chat rooms for their targets to reveal personal secrets, then use those secrets to torment them at school or elsewhere on the internet. Although most bullies are not sophisticated enough to solicit such secrets themselves, they’re very good at spying on apparently private moments.
If you’re concerned that your child may be vulnerable to this kind of bullying, discuss the issues with them and make sure they understand the risks.
Explain to them that they can be more secure if they keep their school and computer lives separate, for instance by using a different name online and never giving out the name of their school or home town or the full names of their friends.
Make sure they understand that it can be unwise for them to talk about their favorite chat rooms at school, especially if they mention them by name. This may sound obvious, but these sort of chat room safety tips simply don’t occur to many children, and they’re exactly the sort of children whom others are looking to take advantage of.
Make sure they know the score and the internet can remain a place to escape to when school life is hard going, not another place where things go wrong.