Online Chat Rooms versus Online Message Boards

Internet Safety for Kids:  Online Chat Rooms versus Online Message Boards

Are you the parent of a teenager or a child who would like to use the internet to meet and communicate with others who share similar interests?  If so, your child may be interested in using an online chat room.  Although online chat rooms are a nice and easy way to talk, it is important to remember that not all online chat rooms are safe.  That is why many parents often opt for message boards instead, but is it really a safer option?

Even if you aren’t an avid internet user yourself, you likely know that online message boards and online chat rooms are different.  Online chat rooms have live communication appearing on the screen.  Conversations are held at that very moment.  Instead, online message boards involve communications that may carry on for days or even weeks.   There are also more detailed and themed discussed that occur on message boards, as opposed to chat rooms.  Common topics discussed include homework, parents, pets, music and sports.

As for why some parents prefer online message boards, as opposed to internet chat rooms, it is because the conversations are not live.  Yes, multiple posters may be online at the same time, but it is common for someone to post a topic and not get a response for a few hours or even a day or two.  In fact, if your child makes a post about their new pet, someone may ask about their pet or congratulate them when they aren’t even online themselves.  This gives many parents comfort and peace of mind.

Another reason why some parents prefer letting their children use online message boards, as opposed to online chat rooms, is because most message boards are monitored by a trusted adult, who is sometimes paid for their work.  This means that all offensive posts should be removed in a relatively short period of time.  Many times, the moderator will also ban that user from returning. 

In keeping with the monitoring of content, is important to remember that not all message boards are moderated.  You will, however, find that a good percentage are.  In fact, most message boards for adults also have someone who reviews the content.  With that said, there is no harm in checking.  In fact, the same should be done with internet chat rooms. 

If a chat room for children or teenagers is only open for a few hours a day, as opposed to 24 hours a day, there is a good chance that a monitor is present.  This may give you some comfort and peace of mind.  Also, be sure to examine internet chat rooms and message boards for kids that do not allow other users to privately communicate with each other through the use of private messages, also commonly known as a PM.

Whether you let your child use an online chat room or an online message board, you should first check it out for yourself.  Visit a chat room.  Do not talk to anyone, but see for about five minutes what type of content is being talked about.  The same should be done with online message boards for kids.  Do you think that the content is safe or do any chatters or posters seem too mature for the room or message board?

As for how you can go about finding online message boards and chat rooms that are safe for your child to visit or to checkout for yourself first, you may want to perform a standard internet search.  Search with a phrase like “safe online messages boards for children.”  There are also television networks, like Nick and The N, which are designed for both teens and tweens, that have online message boards.  They can allow your child to chat with others who like the same shows. 

As highlighted above, internet chat rooms and online message boards can be safe for your child to use, as long as they know the dangers.  Also, be sure to checkup on your child from time to time.  Make sure that they are using a safe message board and chat room and make sure that they aren’t exchanging personal information online.

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