Ever since the origination of the internet, online chat has been a popular way for people to meet new friends and participate in conversations with others around the world.

There are even various game sites that enable you to connect with people around the world and engage in conversations while you play many different games together. If you are the parent of a teenager, then your teen likely uses the internet quite often. He or she also likely engages in online chat, at least on an occasional basis. Even though your teen undoubtedly prefers his or her privacy, it is imperative that you monitor what your teenager does online. You should remind your teen that use of the internet outside of school is a privilege and if your teen doesn’t want you monitoring his or her online activity, then explain that it is important and necessary. Here is an overview of online chat and how things could possibly become dangerous for your teen:

Online video chat

This is a great way to have a conversation with someone in a manner that is similar to being face-to-face. In fact, many employers utilize online video chat for conference calls and even when interviewing potential candidates to fill new positions. Video chat prevents the need to travel to long distance locations, making things convenient for all involved parties. As long as a person has an internet connection and a webcam, then it is possible to chat online with individuals anywhere in the world. After a quick download of the appropriate app, such as Skype or Snapchat, an immediate connection can be made to just about anyone. Online video chat can be a fun way for teens to chat with other teens their age and get to know new people.

When video chat becomes problematic

Of course, there are many benefits of online video chatting, and video chatting can be a great deal of fun, especially for teens. Despite this fact, there is the possibility that online video chat can become a potential danger to your teen. One possibility is if those with whom your teen is chatting with beginning to bully your son or daughter. Many people don’t realize how real cyberbullying is, and that it happens on a regular basis. Only about 7% of parents are concerned about cyberbullying, despite the fact of its increasing prevalence.

What exactly is cyberbullying? Cyberbullying is repeatedly harassing, embarrassing or threatening another person online. This can include exposing photos, emails, social media posts and more. More parents should take cyberbullying seriously and take measures to prevent it from occurring. Cyberbullying has been implicated in the suicide of teens in the past, and it has the potential to happen again at any time.

What can you do to minimize the chances of cyberbullying happening with your teen? Again, monitoring your teen’s online activity is important. So is talking to your teen on a regular basis. Bring up the topic of cyberbullying, and inform him or her that if he or she is ever the victim of it that a responsible adult should be notified, even if that adult isn’t you. Be sure that your son or daughter fully understands what cyberbullying is. Give him or her specific examples of what cyberbullying is and encourage your teen to report any online behaviour that makes him or her feel uncomfortable.

Encountering possible online predators is another potential danger of your adolescent spending time in one or more online chat rooms. Paedophiles will often target children and teenagers online in order to lure them into a sexual relationships. Every situation is different, as sometimes a predator will pose as a teenager and after developing an online relationship with a teen, he or she will attempt to take advantage of your teen. Other perpetrators don’t try to hide the fact that they are full-grown adults, and they are masters at “grooming” teens. In either situation, things could become very dangerous, because the predator will likely eventually set up a time and place to meet your teen in person. This will likely be at the paedophile’s home or at a motel, where the predator will attempt to get your teenager to have sex.

Online sex chat

There are online chat sites that are exclusively intended for people looking to meet and have sex. Even if their intentions aren’t to eventually get together, online sex chat can become very explicit, making it inappropriate for teens. If you’re concerned about your teen engaging in sex chat and viewing pornography, then you should take the time to put a filter on the devices that your teen uses to access the internet. Of course, many teens have the ability to view restricted sites by bypassing filters, so you should keep this in mind. It’s important not to become lax after installing a filter because you never know if your teen can figure out how to view adult websites despite the filter. It is normal for teens to be curious about sex and to want to view pornography, but that does not mean that you must allow them easy access to something intended for adults only.

Keeping your teen safe in online chat rooms

Most online dangers can be eliminated before they occur if you simply take the time to sit down and talk to your teen. Give him or her specific rules that must be followed and explain why the rules are necessary. For instance, you may ban certain chat rooms that you feel are inappropriate or have the potential to become inappropriate. Take the time to find safe alternatives so your teen won’t feel as if he or she is without options. If your teenager feels that you have banned the only options they have, then he or she may be tempted to defy you and visit the online chat rooms that you banned. When seeking safe online chat rooms for your teen, you should check out each site thoroughly. Keep in mind, however, that no matter how safe a chat room might appear that any website can appear to be safe when it’s really not. Predators and bullying are present everywhere and they can’t be escaped. Although they can’t be escaped, it is possible to ensure that your teen remains protected from these potential dangers if you remain vigilant.

Be sure to explain the dangers of possible online predators who are experienced in grooming teens in order to lure them into sexual relationships. Some teens believe that adults are simply worrying needlessly and that certain situations will never happen to him or them. Provide real-life examples of cyberbullying, sexual predators preying on adolescents and other possible dangers that could occur online. Encourage your adolescent to come to you if a dangerous situation is encountered online. You should also give your child specific instructions regarding how to react if a potentially dangerous situation does occur while spending time in online chat rooms. If approached by a potential paedophile, then you should be informed immediately so you can attempt to have him or her prosecuted.

Moderated game sites that include the ability to chat are often safer than traditional chat rooms. Depending on the game site, there is a moderator always present who will ban certain people for inappropriate behaviour. Many game sites with chat do not allow players to abuse or harass others playing in the game room, and some will block players from having the ability to chat. Despite the increased safety of moderated game/chat rooms, there is still the possibility of danger for your teen. So if you identify a “safe” game site where players can engage in chat, you still need to monitor your teen’s activities. There is no website that is 100% safe, even if it is specifically created for teens.

So as you can see, online chat can be a very enjoyable way to meet and get to know interesting people from around the world. It can make interviewing for a long distance job possible without travelling, and there are so many other benefits, as well. Unfortunately, there are many ways in which online chat can be abused, which could become harmful for your teenager. If your teen goes online to chat with others, whether on Facebook, Snap Chat or any of the numerous other sites, then you need to monitor how these sites are being used.

Your teen may object and accuse you of failing to give him or her the privacy they need, but you need to explain that you are simply doing what any parent would do in order to ensure his or her safety. If you feel your teen is spending too much time participating in online chatting, then you should intervene. Encourage him to become involved in sports or other extracurricular activities, which are a great deal safer and healthier than online chatting. If your teen is old enough, you might even encourage him or her to work a part-time job.