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Safe chatting and IMing

A girl using her laptop.

What kind of online name should I choose? Arrow top

You should never use your real name as your online name. By using your real name, anyone can know right away who you are and can probably find out more about you. This is especially true in chat rooms, where you can get comfortable chatting with someone and suddenly realize they know things about you.

You probably want your online name to describe who you are, but be careful about the name and words you choose. Remember when you're talking online to people you don't know well, some people may unfairly judge you by your online name. For example, if you choose a name like hotbabe13, people will get the wrong idea about you and you most likely will get unwanted emails from people who are just responding to your online name and not to who you really are. If you can't think of an online name to use without describing something about yourself, try using the name of a candy bar, color, or something else that's not personal. If the name is already taken, you can try adding a few numbers, for example Green123.

Is IMing safe? Arrow top

Hands typing on a keyboard.IMing isn't as private as you might think, so it's important to know how to stay safe and have fun too.

  • Don’t respond to IM's from people you don't know or IM's that look strange. It is possible to get unwanted IM's. Like emails, IM's can also contain viruses.
  • Don't forget to sign off when you’re finished and change your password regularly. This will keep others from using your IM account.
  • If you get an IM that makes you feel uncomfortable, do not respond to it. Tell your parents/guardians about it.
  • Never give out your screen name or password, even to your friends.

Are chat rooms safe? Arrow top

Before you enter a chat, be sure you have permission from a parent or guardian to do so!

Some chat rooms are thought to be safe because the topic that is being talked about is safe and because there is a moderator leading the chat. Even if the topic is okay, some people might talk about other things that can make you uncomfortable. If you ever feel uncomfortable or in danger for any reason, leave the chat room right away and tell a parent/guardian or other trusted adult.

Can the chat moderator make sure nothing bad happens in the chat room? Arrow top

A chat moderator supervises a chat. A moderator can kick someone out of a chat if they write something they shouldn't, but the moderator can't stop you from going to a private chat area with someone who might harm or threaten you. If you are allowed to go to a chat, be careful to check out the topic first. Your parents/guardians can check out the chat room first to make sure the conversation is okay. Some people who go into chats may want to imagine that you are someone you are not or play out their fantasy by saying bad things to you. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable, leave the chat immediately.

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If someone says inappropriate things to you online or wants to meet you in person, you and your parents/guardians can report it to the Cybertipline

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Content last reviewed September 22, 2009
Page last updated October 31, 2013