Talk Room Safety Tips

Talk Room Safety Tips

Two. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want the public to know — this includes your total name, your address, phone number of other individual information.

Trio. Don’t get together with someone you meet in a talk room. If you must, meet in a public place and bring along some friends.

Four. Don’t expose your actual location or when and where you plan to suspend out.

Five. Choose a nick name that’s not sexually suggestive and doesn’t give away your real name.

6. If someone says or does something creepy — block them and don’t react.

7. If the topic turns to hookup, just sign out. That can often lead somewhere you don’t want to go.

Much has been written about dangers on the Internet, but if your child is going to get in trouble online, chances are that it will be because of something that happens in a talk room. Don’t be alarmed. Millions of children engage in talk and instant messaging every day and the staggering majority are not victimized. Still, a number of the leads reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) CyberTipLine.

( are “online enticement” cases and the vast majority of those began out in a talk room, according to Ruben Rodriquez, director of NCMEC’s Exploited Child Unit. However, the fact that they represent a little fraction of kids online is of no conciliation to those children or their families.

Most of these cases, says Rodriquez, involve a similar methodology. The perpetrator hides in a public talk room looking for a child he thinks is vulnerable. I use “he” because most sexual predators are masculine; however, there have been cases of adult women using the Internet to solicit underage boys and women. When he finds someone who seems vulnerable, he invites the child into a private area of the talk room to get better acquainted. Next comes private talk via an instant message service followed by e-mail, phone conversations and, ultimately, a face-to-face meeting.

The practice isn’t unique to the United States. In a separate interview, Nigel Williams, former director of London-based Childnet International (, painted almost an identical picture based on his organization’s work around the globe. The United Kingdom recently experienced its very first reported case of a child that was seduced into a sexual relationship by an adult encountered online. The female is thirteen and the man – who is now serving a five-year jail sentence, is 33.

In this UK case, the initial contact took place in a talk room and was followed by a daily exchange of e-mail, including some in which the man sent the lady sexually explicit photographs. There were also regular conversations on a mobile phone and, ultimately, a series of meetings at his apartment, which eventually led to sexual intercourse. After the third meeting, the doll confided in her parents who contacted the police. As is often the case, force wasn’t involved. The vulnerable doll submitted to the man’s advances.

Children who are relatively quiet in online talks are especially targeted, says Rodriquez. “Predators like to go after kids who tend to express agreement in talk rooms but not say a lot because they know that these kids are vulnerable.” It’s like children who are on the sidelines on playgrounds. The ones playing the game are already getting recognition. The ones that aren’t are more likely to be lonely and glad for whatever attention they can get.

And, of course, the predator doesn’t begin by sexually propositioning a child. His very first tactic is to create a convenience level, typically by posing as a youthfull person about the same age as the intended victim. Early in the process, the predator might even send the child a photograph of “himself” to reassure the child. Of course, it’s not truly a photo of the person engaged in the talk but of an attractive child about the same age as the victim — possibly scanned from a magazine — often engaged in a glad social activity with parents, friends or siblings.

Sexual predators, according to Rodriquez, are often very skilled at their crimes. “They know how to manipulate children, he said. “They know their likes and dislikes and they know what buttons to thrust.” And they’re patient. It sometimes takes months to turn a contact from a talk room into a sexual victim. And, even however these online relationships typically begin with the child believing that he or she is communicating with another child, it’s not uncommon for the predator to eventually let the child know that he is “a bit older” than he might have very first indicated. Using phrases like, “how do you feel about a `big brother’ or an `uncle,’ ” the adult prepares the child for the eventual meeting where his age will become demonstrable. Rodriquez said that some kids will cut off the relationship the moment they realize they’re dealing with an adult, but others will be flattered by it. Besides, it’s not uncommon for predators to be attempting to seduce several children at a time so even if the kid goes away, they have other victims lined up.

In some cases, the child proceeds to believe that the person on the other end of the talk sessions and e-mail is a child up until the meeting. The adult might tell the unaware child, “My dad will pick you up,” so the will feels safe getting into the adult’s car.

Williams cautions parents that the talk itself is only a meeting point. In many cases, the child and the perpetrator are together in the talk room for a very brief time and proceed the conversation via e-mail and other venues, including mobile phones. In the UK and Europe, it’s very common for teenagers to have cell phones and, unlike the United States, many of those phones have brief message system (SMS) capabilities.

“It’s very popular,” said Williams, “for kids to exchange messages on their cell phones.” Williams worries that would-be pedophiles will use the same technology to reach out to kids. Another problem with cell phones is that kids can use them away from home where parents have no clue as to who they’re talking with.

If you have kids who talk online — and if you’re a parent you most likely do – you might be wondering how you can protect your kids. The response, says Rodriquez and other safety experts, is to attempt to keep in close touch with what your kids are doing online. Be especially wary if they always keep the door shut or turn off the monitor the moment you walk in the door. Still, that might not be a sign of a serious problem, but of your child’s desire to maintain privacy while talking with other kids.

Williams urges parents to talk with their children about Internet safety. Your kids might not like the conversation, but it’s worth having and worth repeating once in awhile, even if your kids tell you that they’re tired of hearing about it.

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