"Talking" with others through Internet-based chat rooms
has become one of the most popular means of communication today. Literally
millions of people visit online chat rooms each day to talk about everything
from baseball to cooking to TV shows to homework assignments. For beginners,
entering a virtual conversation with dozens of other people can be somewhat
daunting. However, knowing the basic chat room guidelines, understanding
the lingo often used in chat rooms and taking precautionary
steps to protect your privacy can all lead to entertaining chat room experiences..
A "chat room," in general terms, is a place where a group of
people "talk" to each other through their computers in real
time. Everyone in a particular chat room is communicating through their
computer keyboards with everyone seeing what each of the other participants
is typing. This can be quite chaotic at times as usually there are multiple
conversations going on simultaneously. The atmosphere is actually quite
similar to a dinner party except it takes place online and, of
course, there's no dinner.
The most basic type of chat is browser-based. To join one of these chat rooms, you simply click on a website's chat link, register your name, choose an ID (nickname), read the chat room's restrictions and/or rules, and then jump into the room to converse. A more advanced form of chat is called Internet Relay Chat or IRC. IRC is neither a particular online service nor a single website. It consists of dozens of large and small networks which are accessible without the use of your web browser. Each of these networks may contain thousands of chat rooms. To join a network, however, you'll first need to download some special software called a "client." (Check out the help pages located at http://www.mirc.com for specific downloading instructions on IRC software.) Once you've downloaded the client, you are now ready to begin searching across the various networks for conversation areas (chat rooms) which look appealing.
Basic Chat Room Guidelines:
Most chat rooms are titled either by the conversation's subject and/or by an age demographic. This allows you to choose a room where conversations are taking place that may be of interest to you. Once you've decided upon a chat room to visit, there are some basic guidelines you'll need to follow.
1) Choose A Generic ID
When registering to participate in a chat room, you'll be required to provide an "ID." This is a unique nickname (or alias) that allows others to recognize you while you're participating in the Internet community. Online IDs tend to communicate something about the person behind them, so be certain of what you are willing to share. Children should never use their real first name within their ID as it provides someone with a conversation starter which may contain a misguided sense of familiarity. Instead, for example, they should make up an ID that contains a color, animal, school mascot, music group or a sports team. For safest results, adults should do likewise.
2) Choose A Generic Profile
Some chat rooms allow participants the option of setting up profile pages. Fellow chat room participants can then access your profile page to find out more about you. Remember to give only the information you feel comfortable providing to the entire world. Also keep in mind that people usually provide fictitious information on these pages. Children should keep their profile information to an absolute minimum or better yet, refrain from filling one out.
3) Do Not Give Personal Information About Yourself To Anyone In A Chat Room
Many chat rooms designed for kids' usage have chat room rules against posting personal information, i.e. phone numbers, street addresses, town names, last names, school names, credit card information and e-mail addresses. This is wise advice for adults utilizing chat rooms as well. You've heard the resulting horror stories of people who have provided personal information to prison inmates or sex offenders while communicating in chat rooms. Some of these stories are true. Remember, most people use fictitious identities while in a chat room to protect their privacy. You should do the same.
4) Read Chat Room Rules
Every chat room has a set of rules by which participants must abide. Be sure to read these rules carefully before "chatting." Otherwise, you may be tossed out of the room. Reputable chat rooms set-up for kids' use have extra precautionary rules regarding giving out personal e-mail addresses, using inappropriate language, etc.
5) Monitor Kids' Chat Activities
Most chat rooms are not monitored for content; therefore, it is up to parents to develop guidelines with their kids regarding what types of chat rooms are appropriate, the length of time kids are allowed to chat on a daily/weekly basis, with whom the kids are allowed to chat (maybe only with kids from their own school for instance) and the amount of personal information the children are allowed to provide to a chat room acquaintance. It is highly recommended that parents sit down with their kids and visit their children's favorite chat rooms from time to time to monitor the rooms' content. Parents can protect their kids' minds by monitoring their online time in the same way they monitor their children's television viewing habits. It's better to be safe than sorry!
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