Chatrooms are virtual places on the internet where people can get together and ‘talk’ using text. Some use specific programs to access and use the facility, others are built into websites, including social networking sites. 

Because the presence of such a large online community of anonymous strangers and the unfiltered, unmoderated discussions, you need to be aware of the potential risks of using chatrooms, and how to overcome them.

The risks

  • Encountering comments that are violent, sexual, extremist or racist in nature, or offensive activities and hateful attitudes.
  • Strangers you meet in chat rooms may be cyber stalkers, or intend to threaten or harass you, persuade you to change your ideologies or have sexual intentions.
  • Young adults and children may be lured into inappropriate conversations with ill-meaning adults.
  • Encountering unrestrained expressions of strongly-worded opinions and emotions, sometimes known as ‘flaming’. This can make the chatting experience unpleasant for everyone else in the room.
  • Being tricked by other people in the chatroom into divulging personal or financial information either in the chatroom or on fraudulent websites.

Chat safely

  • Be careful who you trust online and remember that some online ‘friends’ are really strangers.
  • Keep your personal information secret when completing your profile or chatting online (name, address, telephone number, mobile number, private email address, picture), even if people ask for this.
  • Remember that you can always log out to avoid unwelcome situations, or change your screen name.
  • Do not hesitate to block people you do not want to chat to.
  • Think before you answer private messages.
  • Do not use your real name – but instead a nickname (but not one that will attract the wrong type of attention).
  • Take action if you think your friends are at risk.
  • Learn how to keep/save a copy of the conversation in chat – this may be useful if you want to report something.
  • Report people breaking the rules to the chatroom provider.
  • Take care if meeting in person someone you have only been in touch with online. Tell a family member or friend and consider taking them with you – at least on the first visit. Meet and remain in a public place. Always have a mobile phone with you which is switched on. Stay sober. Take care of your personal belongings.

Jargon Buster

A Glossary of terms used in this article:


A list of personal details revealed by users of social networking, gaming, dating and other websites. Profiles may normally be configured to be public or private.