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Instant Messaging

An instant messaging program is one that can instantly send messages from one computer to another by means of small ‘pop-up’ windows. They are a form of ‘instant email’ and are very popular with students and adults alike. They are usually a one-to-one communication medium, although some programs allow many people to chat at the same time, like a private chat room.  Many parents confuse instant messaging with chat rooms,  both technologies involve talking in 'real time,' but there are important differences that have safety implications.

A chat room is a place on the Internet where you can talk to anyone in the world.  Instant messaging is a safer environment because it permits users to select the people they want to talk with. Users create contact lists of friends to chat with and can block people they don't know or don't want to communicate with.

Most IM programs encourage users to fill out a 'personal profile' which includes detailed personal information. Once completed, this profile is available to anyone on the Internet who wants to pull it up and read it. Kids should be taught to never fill out these kinds of profiles online.

Tip: Sit with your kids and review their instant messaging contact list to make sure they know everyone on it.

Sources: NAlert, MNet

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