Online chatting has evolved significantly since the Internet became a part of daily living. Long gone are the days of anonymous AOL chat names as these once popular chatting venues have evolved and been replaced with social networking sites and interest forums. Social networking has added an interesting dynamic to online chatting because many websites encourage or are based upon real life identities. With so many people using their real names, this has increased the need to be vigilant when chatting online.
Here are a few basic safety tips for online chatting:
Use a Chat Name
When chatting online, before you log into any chat room, forum or other venue, be sure and choose a user name that does not identify you personally. While it’s hard to avoid using your real name with social networking, especially when you’re searching for and locating people you know offline, when using other kinds of chat, try and stick to names that do not personally identify you.
Also, if you do need to use your real name, make an effort to use any privacy settings so limited information is shared publicly. In addition, you’ll have to be even more careful with what you say. That being the case, it is important to exercise much caution with personal information.
Use Caution with Personal Information
Even what may seem like insignificant random pieces of information can be linked together until it eventually completes a puzzle. With each chat session the information exchanged back and forth can get intense or end up being pretty personal.
Use caution with personal information and try to keep conversations lighthearted so as not to share too much of your personal life with a stranger who may not have the best of intentions. In addition, it’s best to use general information about where you live without getting too specific, or better yet, don’t mention where you live at all.
Remember the Internet is a Public Space
Even if you’re in a private chatting session and not a public chat room it is important to remember that everything can be copied, pasted or culled together and scrutinized if the person you’re chatting with has sinister intentions. Public chat rooms can be seen by anyone. A good safety tip online is to speak in generalities and do not get into subjects too personal or deep because you never know who you’re talking to.
Use Vigilance Meeting Someone Offline
In today’s world it is not uncommon for people to become very friendly with people they chat with and while the Internet is a great way to make new friends, or even find a partner, it is important to be extremely caution when meeting offline.
If you decide to do this, always meet in a public place that is well lit with plenty of people around. Be sure and tell someone where you are going, who you are meeting and how long you’ll be gone. Leave a number you can be reached and make an effort to check in with someone during your outing to let them know you’re OK.
Remember People Lie
While it’s easy to conjure up images of people, it is important to remember that not everyone is who he or she says they are, in fact, their names and photos could be completely fake. Be careful and don’t necessarily believe everything you see, read or hear.
Even though the Internet has seamlessly been interweaved into daily living, it is now more important than ever to remember the Internet is a very public place and much information can be sought out by those who have nefarious intentions.
This isn’t to say everyone online is a bad person, most probably are not, but unfortunately there are enough bad apples out there to make online safety enough of a concern. However, with vigilance, caution, common sense and safety-savvy you can enjoy the benefits of chatting online.
Leigh has been writing on the web since 2007. She has a high interest in business, tech, higher education, and Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia travel, but loves to write about a variety of topics. In addition to writing on Writedge, she also runs a blog about the Washington DC Metro Area and a photography blog Photos by Leigh Goessl.