E-mail, IM, and chat room programs let children communicate with friends and family members.They can also allow children to connect with people that they have never met in person, making them vulnerable to online predators, cyberbullies, and scam artists.Signing up for an e-mail account is simple, as most services offer them for free and do not check the identities of users.This allows cyberbullies or scam artists to anonymously send harassing messages or spam.Children may not know the true identities of their buddies, as IM accounts can be acquired anonymously.Trusted adults should review children’s buddy lists for unknown contacts, and talk to them about the identities of the people on the lists.However, these online communication services, along with chat rooms, continue to be an important part of children’s online interactions.E-mail accounts, for example, are often necessary to join social networking sites, online games, and virtual worlds.
These messages may also have text, audio, and picture files attached.
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Knowing a little about each of these communication services, and the associated risks, can help parents, guardians, and other trusted adults keep children safer while online.
A study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that teens (ages 12-17) use text messaging to communicate with their friends more than e-mail or instant messaging (IM).
Sometimes these messages contain viruses, scams, or other inappropriate content, so trusted adults should warn children to be wary of e-mails from unknown people.
Instant Messaging Instant messaging programs allow users to exchange real-time messages with people from a list of contacts, also known as a “buddy” list.