The Dark Side of Instant Messaging (IM)

You are probably aware that by downloading a piece of software from an IM service, registering and choosing a username and password, you can log in and send an instant message to a buddy, which they can see in real time.

Whilst IM has benefits such as being an incredibly cheap and easy way to communicate, it has certain risks.

1. Your child can be contacted by a complete stranger who could pretend to be someone they aren't. There have been many reported cases of young children being groomed for sex by older predators pretending to be young teens. Would you allow a forty-three year old man, you did not know, to chat to your 13 year old child on a regular basis in the real world? Clearly not, yet this danger is highly prevalent on the Internet. Your child should never add anyone to their buddy list that they don't know.

2. When your child registers to an IM service, they could unwittingly give too much information that could be viewed by others. It is best for them to decline entry into member's directories and not offer information that could make them identifiable. So, it is essential that when they register, they don't give out their name, or location, or phone contact details.

3. Your child can unwittingly download attachments with viruses and inappropriate images without you ever knowing. So, they need to practice the same common sense as when they are using email.

4. Your child can be targeted with adverts from inappropriate gambling and dating sites. So, if your child is on services such as MSN messenger, you will need to take action.

5 Your child can be harassed or bullied on line, so make sure they know that if this happens, they can report the event to the service's system administration. Most IM services offer a chat history feature, so evidence won't be difficult to find. Your child should be taught safe and responsible behaviour, so if they are made to feel uncomfortable in a chat session, they should end the conversation and seek advice from an adult.

If you know of any other risks, please share them with us by clicking here

eZpZchat, our parental controlled chat program removes the above risks. Trial it now. It is free of charge to existing eZpZemail subscribers, so sign up today.