The Internet offers great experiences for adults and children. There are opportunities to improve your life, have some fun, enhance your education or pursue business interests. Young people are often enthusiastic Internet users, particularly of interactive services like Email, Chat and Instant Messaging. However, like many exciting activities, there are risky situations to deal with and hazards to avoid.
Young people make friends easily, and are often willing to give out personal details like their email address, home address and phone numbers to those they meet online, especially if the child is using the Internet from a place they think of as "safe", like home or a friends house.
The content of chats may also be a problem. Children may be exposed to inappropriate language or ideas. They may be encouraged to send photos of themselves, even indecent pictures, and may be sent obscene images. Also, they may come into contact with people whose intentions are bad; there have been cases of young people being approached online by adults or adolescents who aim to develop a relationship with them in the real world, a relationship that might end in criminal activity.
The best advice for responsible adults is to talk frequently to young people about their experience of chatting online, getting then to explain what they do and discuss any problems that come up. Parents may recommend safe chat services or moderated chat rooms, but youngsters will sometimes still opt for other unsafe alternatives.
In particular, children should understand about "stranger danger", personal details and privacy, and that it is best to be a little cautious. They should think first before giving out personal information like an email address, phone number and home address. If they do arrange real life meetings with people they have met online, they should always tell an adult, take along someone they trust, and meet somewhere public.
If young people do have a bad experience, do report it so that it can be investigated. If it happens in a chat room, contact the operator of that website first. If it led to a real-life problem, contact the police.
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