Social networks and chat rooms have become an integral part of numerous Internet users. Children also like to use the chat channel to chat with others or to exchange information and messages. For many children, social networks have become an important part of their communication. But in addition to the diverse opportunities that chatting offers, there are also some dangers lurking because perpetrators also move in chat. The following article explains everything worth knowing about the chances and dangers of chat channels for children and young people.
The risks of chatting
A chat undoubtedly offers children and adolescents many opportunities and opportunities, for example to make and maintain contacts, to communicate with others and to exchange ideas. This also applies to school content, so the chat channel can help improve school performance.
Many students now live far from each other, so it is not always possible to meet after school. The chat, this modern form of communication has in most cases replaced the telephone for children and adolescents.
Unfortunately, chatting also hides serious dangers for children and adolescents, because problematic and even dangerous contacts are possible. In a chat channel, for example, perpetrators like to make use of the information that is set publicly by the users or they try to get the data of the members via free campaigns, competitions etc., or to spread malware. Other perpetrators use the opportunity to contact the victim through the chat channel.
Tips for a safe use of the chat
Parents can give children some protection through collusion. It is therefore important to talk to them about the dangers of chatting and to agree on certain rules.
The most important rules of conduct include being generally suspicious in the chat channel, not disclosing personal data, immediately terminating unpleasant conversations or contacts, notifying parents immediately if there is an unpleasant experience, and never entering into a real meeting with an unknown chat partner.
Especially when children and teenagers are chatting, it is also important that the chat has a moderator. Its job is to watch out and act as a point of contact.
In a controlled chat there is also the possibility to mute disturbing participants with the ignore function and to quickly call a moderator for help with the emergency button. It also makes sense if the chat channel has no guest access, because this ensures that all users must be registered.
Voice chats are unsuitable for children. Here the communication between the members takes place via voice. There is hardly any control or intervention by the moderator possible. If children are chatting alone, they should then talk to them about the chat experience and who they were chatting with.
Privacy is very important in a chat channel
Private data is the greatest asset in a chat channel. The less of it announced and the better the account’s publicity is restricted, the less possible perpetrators can do with the profile. Skype and social media, such as Facebook, also have chat functions, whereby the visibility of personal data and accessibility can be restricted via the privacy settings (see figures above).
Such additional options of a chat channel for setting privacy should definitely be used. Pay close attention to who can see the data so that close friends can see more than perhaps fleeting acquaintances or even strangers.
The following should not be published:
- Date of birth
- Visited school
- Contact details such as telephone number and email address
- Current location, e.g. vacation address
- Intimate or sexy photos
- Photos that clearly identify the child are generally unsuitable
Instant messengers pose a risk
In contrast to the chats, the instant messanger does not communicate via the platform of the chat provider. Rather, the users’ computers establish a direct connection with each other.
This personal communication can be compared to a telephone call. The instant messenger is downloaded online and installed on the computer or mobile phone. Communication can be exchanged in real time via the instant messenger and pictures and sounds can also be forwarded. The advantage of instant messenger is that only those people can be contacted who are expressly permitted to do so.
However, instant messenger is private communication, so there is no control, such as in the chat channel by a moderator. In addition, there is a risk that photos or videos may be sent undesirably. Instant messenger, like the popular smartphone software "Whatsapp" (Picture above) therefore represent an increased risk and are not suitable for children.
Initiation of sexual abuse in the chat channel
Children and teenagers are undoubtedly taking a big risk with a meeting outside of the chat channel. Any disappointments are the lesser evil. The biggest dangers are sexual assaults.
The perpetrator usually disguises his identity until the meeting. Often the initiation takes place in the following steps: First of all, the perpetrator tries to win the victim’s trust. He wants to get the name, contact details and address.
The perpetrators usually try to make sure that it is actually a child they are dealing with by contacting them by telephone or SMS. The perpetrator then arranges a meeting with the victim. Most of the time, they first choose a place that is attractive for children, such as a swimming pool, zoo, etc. Therefore need children and teenagers absolutely need to know that meeting unknown members from a chat channel is a big risk. Checking the child’s chat can be helpful.
Even if the chat channel hides some dangers for children and adolescents, it should be said that chatting also offers good opportunities. Children do not necessarily have to face the risks when chatting. They just shouldn’t be neglected.
Preventive education offers the greatest protection. Therefore it is important, with the Talk to the child about possible dangers that can arise when chatting and explain the correct behavior in the different cases. Parents must act as a contact person and confidant.
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