Safety First in Chat Rooms
An article by Katherine Walden . Used by permission.
While I do not want to bring sense of paranoia and distrust to your chat experience, I thought I would give a few pointers to make your chat experience a safe and enjoyable one.
- Your true full name, address, phone number, etc. should never be revealed in a chat room, either in a private message or aloud on the screen. If you have spent a lot of time chatting with a person and feel that it is safe to give more information, do it through E-mail. You might want to set up a special E-mail address through hotmail or another free E-mail service, to use as your chat E-mail address. In some chat rooms (not an easy task on beseen.com), it is quite easy for people to forge others' accounts and to take on another user's persona.
- No matter how well you think you might know someone in a chat room, remember that they are probably only showing you a part of their true self. There are some con artists who use chatrooms to scam and misrepresent themselves, often giving hardluck stories of poverty, etc. Some things to think about. If someone says they are homeless and yet are in a chat room for hours on end, where do they get their internet access? If someone says that church after church has turned them away and has not helped them, why do they think that you, as a non professional would be able to help them? Point people towards their local church, social agencies, etc, if they are in desperate situations.
- Parents should never leave their children unsupervised for long periods in a chat room. Although a chat room is safe 95 percent of the time, it does not mean that malicious people cannot visit a chat room. Teach your child to TURN OFF the computer if they do not feel comfortable in a chat room. Teach them NEVER to give out any personal information (see 1), including such information as: Do their parents work, where is their computer in their home, etc.? Teach them NOT to argue with the person, or to engage in conversation with them. That is the role of the parent, to protect the child. Find out who your child is chatting with frequently and ask to meet that person on the net. Ask for their E-mail address, and keep it handy. Don't allow the Internet to be a babysitter for your young child, and make it a habit, just as you do in your life off your computer, to know to whom your teenagers are chatting.
- If you are in a chat room and a trouble maker comes in, don't engage them in conversation, including rebuking them, praying for them, screaming at them or whatever. Pointedly ignore them. They are in the room just to get attention. If no attention is paid, they get bored and move on. In this chat room, (He is Faithful Chat Room) you can copy down the person's name, and their ISP number (the 6-12 digit number beside each chatter when they type a message) and E-mail it to me. I will see that they are banned if they repeatedly harass individuals.
A word about Chatting Addictions
Yes, it IS possible to become addicted to chat rooms. I am not a professional in addictive behaviours, but these are some warning signs that I have seen in lives of those who have seen trouble in their off line lives because of their internet involvement. Here are some warning signs. If you see yourself in three or more of these warning signs, it is time to step back and take a personal inventory. Ask your friends and family (off the net) if THEY recognize any of these signs in you and to what degree. No matter how close your friends may be on the Internet, your family and home church and local body of Christ must be your priority. If you would like more information about Internet addictions, visit any websearch engine and enter the words "Internet addiction" or chat room addiction.
- You find yourself chatting more in detail with your chat friends about your life, than you do with people IN your life. (Church family, family, etc.)
- You feel that your friends on the computer understand you more than your friends and family OFF the computer. Remember, the Internet has its limitations and no matter how long you chat with a person, you never truly get to know everything about them, that you would in an everyday life face to face relationship.
- You begin to have "romantic" fantasies about people in your chat room.
- You feel anxious when you have not been in your favourite chat room for a couple of days.
- You are giving up hobbies and other creative interests for the Internet.
- You are increasingly finding fault with your local church and family and feel that the only true christian love you have ever experienced is on the internet.
- You have missed appointments, or spending quality time with your family or friends to spend time on the Internet.
- Your friends and family members begin to complain to you that you are spending too much time on the Internet. Your phone is tied up for hours.
- You are not getting enough sleep because of late nights on the Internet, or you have let your housework, family responsibilities or work responsibilities slide to spend time on the 'net.
- You become defensive when your internet usage is discussed by family members, church family, or your chat room friends.
- When you are stressed or burdened you automatically turn to the chat room, rather than to the Lord in personal prayer time, or to your family or local body of Christ.
- Your devotions and ministry to the local body of Christ are slipping.
- You find your thoughts are drawn to the Internet while you are doing other activities during the day.
- You find it increasingly easier to talk with your "chat friends" and feel more and more distant from your friends and family off the 'net. You find you can relate easier to your on line friends than your own family and church body.
- You have a sense of "euphoria" or anticipatory "high" when you log onto your computer.
I have been chatting on the internet and local BBS's for several years and have truly been blessed by prayer and fellowship with believers from all over the world. I have been honoured to lead people to the Lord and have been able to encourage many to return to a local church and to find a deeper walk with Christ. I can say the majority of people who chat in Christian chat rooms have a healthy respect for the internet and have found balance in their lives. At first, like any new experience, they may spend longer hours in chat until the novelty wears off and they soon find a balance, between their family responsibilities, fellowship with the local church and their life on the net
However, I have personal knowledge of at least two Christian marriages that have been destroyed by a spouses internet obsession or addiction. Self-deception and denial can become intense. Often the one spouse feels neglected or lonely, and turns to the net as a distraction. They soon find all these wonderful people in chat rooms who understand them and appreciate them so much more than their own spouse or family.
Chat Room relationships are unique in the way that you can avoid confrontation and the every day conflicts in relationships, by just hanging up and logging out of a chat room. You can create your own perfect little world on the internet, always being around seemingly supportive people who you do not have to go through the every day highs and lows of family and church relationships. Chat room relationships feel safe because you know that will never meet your chat room companions in person, and even if you did, it would be for short visits. The internet should never become an escape from the problems in your life off the net.
The chat experience can be incredibly intense and many find themselves sharing personal stories and intimate details of their lives much more quickly than they would in a face to face relationship. This can confuse a person into thinking that the cyber friendship is more "real" than friendships they have had off the net. This is not true, necessarily. I have read 80 percent of communication is body language. The chat room experience does not allow you to see the whole person, and thus it is hard to truly get a complete picture of your friends on the net.
I would caution you to not allow the word "ministry" to become an excuse for excessive internet usage. No ministry, either on line or off line is that important as to put your family life in jeopardy. Many a pastor, in hindsight, could tell you of the dangers of putting ministry above their relationship with their family. If you are not spending quality and quantity time with your children, spouse, parents, or friends because of your "on line ministry", seek the Lord as to what is His priority for you.
Enjoy chatting but don't let it become your main focus. The internet is a wonderful tool and a great place to learn, and fellowship, but it should never take the place of face to face relationships, and should never become a "haven" from problems that you are afraid to work through off the computer.
Chat Room Safety and Internet Addiction
created by Katherine Walden, firstname.lastname@example.org
last update: March 8, 1999
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