As a concerned adult who has been involved in online chat for almost six years, I was pleased to see the article regarding the closure of privately owned rooms on Yahoo. My concerns for children and teenagers online have grown over the past years as I have come into contact with people online that I, as a parent, would never have wanted my children to be around, even just on the Internet. fmwhatsapp
The anonymity of the medium is the biggest cause for concern. This is a whole new world, growing everyday, whereby people can meet and chat without ever having eye contact, or the advantage of reading body language. I heard recently a figure of 350 million people entering one particular chat server each month. This is astounding to someone who lives in a country like Australia where there is such a small population compared to the big wide world out there. The fact that you can chat without anyone seeing who you are, also opens a huge window of opportunity for those that get a ‘high’ out of manipulating the minds and emotions of the naive and vulnerable of our society. And the naive and vulnerable probably make up a large proportion of those online, because of the anonymity factor, because of the lack of eye contact, and the lack of body language. These people find it hard to interact in their real lives, and yet online, they come out of themselves because no one is there to make fun of them or deride them. All they need do is hit the X up in the corner and they can move on from perhaps someone who is verbally abusing them in a room, to a safer room.
The problem I have with chat rooms is that in spite of a room being labelled ‘teenage’ or a Peers age room, anyone can go into those rooms and do whatever they like in private. I advocate everyone naming the nick in public that comes into a room and starts to click on other nicks for private conversations. And yet, if you do that where I used to chat, you are warned and often kicked out of the room, or you are told to take your problems private. I am strongly in favour of networking to weed out the sleazes from chat, and yet again, this is frowned on. It doesn’t take much nouce to work out that someone who comes into a room only to priv people, comes in with a motive other than pleasant chat with those already in the room. These people should be outlawed.
The Australian server I spent my time with quite recently changed their rules regarding room ownership. They opened the chat scene up so that anyone can now own a room, whereas for the first five years or so I chatted in there, you had to apply to open a room and it had to be run on Telstra rules. Chat is dying on that server since they changed the rules; people have moved out of the main rooms into small isolated rooms and the whole concept of chat has changed. This is a shame as chat can be wonderful for many people who don’t look below the surface and see what is beneath that isn’t so good. It can be, and is, a lifeline for many and the demise of the quality of chat is sad. People are wary of entering a room where only one of two others can be seen as often the impression is there is something wrong with the room or the two people are having a private meeting. As in most things, humans like to be around groups where they feel a degree of safety and belonging.