Internet chat rooms are websites where users can freely type to communicate with one another in real time. Chat rooms can be a fun way to communicate with friends and those with similar interests, but they can also be one of the most dangerous places to go on the Internet, especially for children.
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Chat rooms often allow visitors to choose a user name that is not associated with any real information about the person using it. The anonymity can make it can be difficult to know whether other chatters are being truthful and makes chat rooms a potential avenue for child predators to gain access to children. For instance, a predator could pose as a teenager and try to learn personal information about other teens. Over time, if the children become familiar with the predator, they may begin to trust him, which may allow the predator to learn intimate details about the children or even trick them into meeting. According to CNN, "an increasing number of predatory pedophiles have used chat rooms to 'groom' youngsters for sexual abuse."
Chat rooms are a way for people to spread harmful data or malware. According to the the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, chat room users may try to convince you to run a program or click on a link that will send a malicious piece of software to your computer. While you may be wary of malware sent via email from unknown sources, chat room users have the advantage of being able to communicate with you directly to gain your confidence. If you feel comfortable with another user, it can be easy for the user to get you to click on something that may harm your computer. The programs used to facilitate online chatting may not be designed for security, which may make your computer easier for others to attack.
Another disadvantage of chat rooms is that content that appears in the chat may not be censored or filtered in any way. Malicious users can expose others to bad language and adult images or references. Some Internet users may attempt to get others to look at horrific or shocking images or to antagonize others by making comments that invoke anger or create arguments.