Safe Chat Over The Net

Sharing Information

The net has become a place where we talk to many people. Some ways of doing this may be:
- Chat rooms
- Email
- ICQ

Meeting people with similar interests can be fun and exciting and it is not unusual to want to share information about yourself. When doing this it is important to keep in mind how much you know about the person you are sharing with. Sometimes we do not know a lot about them and it makes it harder to stay safe. There are a number of things, which can help you stay safe when you are meeting someone.

Using the Internet to Communicate

The Internet is a great way of staying in touch and meeting people. Chat rooms, ICQ and email make it easy to speak to people from all over the world. However, the net can also be used for inappropriate communication and it is important to be aware of how to use it safely. Some of the ways in which the net may be wrongly used include:

- Harassing you with information when you have asked not to be contacted.
- People using the net to gain your trust so they can then have sexual contact with you.
- Using the net to work out your movements so that someone can rob your house.

There are a number of things you can do to help to reduce the likelihood of these things happening.

Avoid giving out personal details - Remember, using the Net to meet people means you don't really know who is on the other end of the line. It is possible to get to know someone's interests and to be friends with them without having to give out your personal details such as your address, surname or phone number.

If someone is pressuring you to give you these details it may be a good idea to question why they need them.

To avoid giving out your surname, which allows people to find out more about you, you may like to sign with just your first name when chatting. Using a pseudonym (e.g. Dolphin99) is also a good idea. When you are setting up an email account perhaps you should also use a pseudonym.

Meet new people in a group - If you decide to meet someone you have met over the net, meet in a place where there are lots of people around. This may be at the movies or in a shopping centre. You may also want to take a friend or two with you. Having a group of friends nearby is also a good idea. Meeting in places where no one is around like a park can be dangerous because if the person is not as friendly as first thought, it is harder to get help or leave the situation.

Avoid chatting with people who make sexual references - If someone is using sexual language or references it is best to stop contact with them. Research into pedophiles has shown that stalkers use the net as a place to attract young people and they often start by talking sexually before asking to meet the young person face-to-face. If the person keeps contacting you, contact the police.

Creating your Own Website

Creating your own website can be a good way to let people know something about yourself. However, you may want to keep in mind that it can also let people know your personal details like where you live. To avoid letting people know these details it is a good idea to:

- Use a nickname. This may be safer than using your real name and makes it harder for people identify you.

- If you are at school, avoid mentioning the name of the school. With a photo and the name of the school, someone could obtain a yearbook and find out your last name, or even just wait outside and follow you home.

- Try not to be too specific with where you live, especially if it's a small town, e.g. saying you're from Sydney is all right because the area is large. Saying you live in Pearce in Canberra is not.

More information

The Internet Safety Group - New Zealand based site with more information on safe ways to use the net.
Australian Families Guide to the Internet: from the Australian Broadcasting Authority

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