Out of Sight and Out of Mind
One of the biggest problems for anyone trying to socialise in a chat room is harassment, and this can be even worse if the user is a child. From individuals making inappropriate suggestions, to school bullies, to former friends with whom conversation has become uncomfortable, these people can ruin a place which is supposed to be fun.
As a parent, you may be tempted to suggest that your child simply stop using that chat room, but they won’t want to do so if all their friends are there. Instead, you need to help them make problem individuals disappear.
Often children are more familiar with the mechanics of using chat rooms than their parents are, yet they may be less confident about using the tools at their disposal. Chat room safety tips often recommend the option of killfiling troublemakers – that is, putting them in a special category so that you can’t see what they say any more – but children worry that doing this will make them seem ‘soft’ or will cause offence. They also worry about being talked about behind their backs.
You need to reassure them that once the people they don’t like are out of their sight, they can be put out of mind. If they don’t have any means of contact with your child other than the chat room, it’s okay to simply forget about them. They haven’t earned the right to have attention paid to them.
The chat room safety tips you give your child should include an instruction to killfile people who make threats or sexual suggestions immediately. Once your child has got into the habit of doing this, it won’t seem so difficult any more, and since your explicit permission has been given it won’t seem rude.
You might also advise your child to warn people they meet in the chat room that their parents sometimes killfile people without telling them, so that if they suddenly cease to respond to conversation the people they’re cutting out won’t know whether or not it’s a result of their own decision. This can make it easier for them to opt out of talking to people with whom they had been getting on, but whom they’ve started to find creepy.
Taken together, these strategies will make it very difficult for online predators or bullies to gain power over your child. They’ll also teach a skill which can be valuable elsewhere in life – simply walking away.