These are 'sites' on the internet that allow a number of people to 'meet' and take part in 'real time' conversations. It is similar to having a telephone conversation with a number of people at once, except that the participants type instead of talk. There are a number of very good educational websites, but like News Groups, Chat Rooms are open to abuse as people are anonymous and can take on a totally false identity. Children need to be warned of this real danger and their use of these types of site need to be monitored very closely by parents.
These sites have largely taken over from ‘Chat Rooms’ as they also have the capacity for direct chatting on line. The major sites are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (which is like an updated chat-room) and Youtube. On these sites people can exchange pictures, text and videos and this has led to ‘sexting’ in some teenagers, where they share pictures of themselves of an indecent nature. These pictures can then be ‘captured’ and shared in a way they have not agreed to, nor would want.
There is also the capacity for ‘grooming’ of children on these sites. This is where an adult poses as another child and engages young people in ‘chat’ leading to meeting them or other activities that are inappropriate.
Bullying can also occur on these sites and is much more difficult to detect and stop than bullying in school.
It is a little known fact that children under the age of 13 should not have an account on Facebook.