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.
- 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.
- 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.