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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CHAT ROOMS

Sunday, December 21, 2008


“Being shy, I can go into a chat room online and talk with people I normally would not talk to. They have no idea who I am.”- Ali
“In a chat room, you have the feeling that you can say whatever you want.”-Zacon
CHAT ROOMS are “areas” on the Internet where users can have live, two-way conversations via text messages. Chat rooms can accommodate large numbers of people, who can read and respond to each other’s messages.

Some chat rooms are particularly appealing to youthful Internet users. Millions of young people from a variety of cultures exchange opinions daily on almost any subject. Some schools now tap this global resource. For example, with their teacher’s supervision, students in the United States might discuss social issues with fellow students in Spain, England, or elsewhere. Students may even chat about their class project with a qualified engineer, chemist, or another expert. Many people who visit chat rooms, though, are not there to discuss academic subjects. If you have access to the Internet, what dangers should you be aware of? A Hunting Ground for Sexual Predators “I was talking with some people in a chat room,” says Abigail, “when a man asked me if I knew any 14-year-olds. He wanted to have sex with them. He said that he was willing to give them money for sex.” Abigail’s experience is not an isolated one.
The problem of online predators is so widespread that some governments have produced guides on how youths can be protected. For example, a publication of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States warns of individuals who immediately engage in sexually explicit talk. It also warns of those who “gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts.”
Describing the specific methods used by some of these predators, the FBI guide says: “They listen to and empathize with the problems of children.
They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to lower children’s inhibitions gradually by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations.”
It is not just perverted adults who pose a danger. You also need to beware of youths who are ignorant of or who deride the Bible’s moral standards. Consider the experience of a young man named Cody. He was chatting with other youths online when a girl invited him into a private chat area. She then asked him a sexually suggestive question. Cody had the self-control to terminate the conversation immediately. Because of a natural interest in sex, you may find it extremely difficult to react the way Cody did. Peter, mentioned earlier, admits: “I thought I had enough self-control to terminate a chat session if the subject turned to sex. But time and again, I found myself hanging on and chatting about sexual subjects. I felt bad later.” You may wonder, though, ‘If I hide who I am in a chat room, is there really any harm in talking about sex online?’ Are Online Sex Discussions Harmful? The Bible talks openly about sex. (Proverbs 5:18, 19) Admittedly, humans have an increased interest in sex during youth. So you should talk about sex. You need answers to your questions on this important subject.#
However, the way you satisfy your curiosity about sexual matters will have a profound impact on your happiness, both present and future.
If you choose to chat online about sex, even if it is with people who say they are your friends, your experience could well end up being like that of a young man described in the Bible. Out of curiosity, he wandered near the house of a prostitute. At first, she just talked to him. Once his desire was aroused, though, talk was not enough. “All of a sudden he is going after her, like a bull that comes even to the slaughter, . . . just as a bird hastens into the trap.”—Proverbs 7:22, 23. Similarly, talking about sex online could easily lead to your going after greater gratification. “I was chatting online with someone,” recalls a teen named Philip, “when an immoral picture popped up on my screen.
The person I was chatting with had sent it to my computer.” Once your desire to consider sexually explicit material has been aroused, you may be tempted to pursue your interest further, such as in an adult chat room.% Many who fall into the trap of viewing pornography go on to commit immorality and suffer the inevitable consequences.—Galatians 6:7, 8.
People who want to talk about sex with you online do not have your best interests at heart. These strangers want to lure you into immoral talk—and possibly actions—to gratify their own desires.^ In an attempt to protect his son from a sexually exploitive person, King Solomon wrote: “Keep your way far off from alongside her, and do not get near to the entrance of her house, that you may not give to others your dignity, . . . that strangers may not satisfy themselves with your power.” (Proverbs 5:8-10) The principle behind this advice might be applied this way: Do not get near chat rooms where sexual topics are discussed so that you do not give your dignity to strangers who just want to satisfy themselves at your expense. “Those Who Hide What They Are” You may say, though, that you do not want to talk about sex online.
Like Peter and Abigail, mentioned previously, you might see a chat room as a place where you can express yourself anonymously, without fear of embarrassment.** Even so, there is another danger that you should be aware of.
The anonymous nature of chat rooms could tempt you into becoming deceitful. Abigail says: “I would start conversations with people and then take on a personality to fit the conversation.” Like Abigail, you may be tempted to assume a different personality to fit in with a certain chat room group. You might conform to their standards of language or adopt their interests in an attempt to make new friends. Conversely, you may see a chat room as a place to express ideas and feelings that you think your parents or friends would disapprove of. Either way, you end up deceiving one group or the other.
By pretending online to be someone you are not, you are deceiving your chat room contacts. On the other hand, if you do not express your real feelings and ideas to your family and friends, you are deceiving them. So make an adjustment to these to get God's favor in the day of his judgment.

HOW YOU CAN AVOID DANGERS OF CHAT ROOMS



Some people can chat on the net for more than seven hours, without blinking an eye.
CHAT ROOMS—like any other area where strangers mingle—contain dangers that you need to be aware of. To illustrate, if you visited a big city, you would logically endeavor to minimize any threat to your safety by identifying and then avoiding hazardous areas.

The same logic applies if you must visit a chat room. In the September 22 issue of Awake! two dangers inherent to many chat rooms were discussed, namely, the possibility of your coming in contact with sexual predators and the temptation for you to become a deceiver. There are other dangers that are worth considering. But, first, how are chat rooms organized?
Organized for a Purpose
Chat rooms are usually organized according to topics that attract certain groups of people. Some might be set up for enthusiasts of a particular sport or hobby. Others may be devoted to discussing a television show. Still others might cater to people claiming to belong to a particular religion.

If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, curiosity might prompt you to visit a chat room that claims to be a place where Witness youths from around the world can make new friends. Finding friends among youths who share your faith is a desirable goal. However, these chat rooms harbor insidious dangers for Christians. What kind of dangers?
Introducing Moral Corruption

“I was in a chat room with a group of people who I thought were all Jehovah’s Witnesses,” says a youth named Tyler. “After a while, though, some of these people started disparaging our beliefs. Before long, it was evident that they were really apostates.” They were individuals who deliberately tried to undermine the morals of those who they claimed were their fellow believers.

God’s Son, Jesus Christ, warned that some of those who followed him would turn on their companions. (Matthew 24:48-51; Acts 20:29, 30) The apostle Paul called such individuals in his time false brothers and says that they “sneaked in” to do harm to those in the Christian congregation. (Galatians 2:4) The Bible writer Jude says that they “slipped in” with the goal of “turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct.” (Jude 4) He also describes them as “rocks hidden below water.”—Jude 12.

Notice that both Paul and Jude identify the stealthy methods often used by apostates. These Bible writers noted that the apostates “sneaked in” or “slipped in” with the purpose of morally corrupting those in the Christian congregation. Today, chat rooms offer such corrupt ones the perfect cloak for their devious endeavors. Like rocks hidden below water, these false Christians mask their real intent beneath a pretense of concern for Witness youths. But their goal is to shipwreck the faith of unwary ones.—1 Timothy 1:19, 20.

This journal, as well as other material produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, has repeatedly warned of this particular danger.# Therefore, anyone you meet in a chat room ostensibly set up for Jehovah’s Witnesses is, at best, a person who disregards such counsel. Do you really want as friends those who choose to downplay Bible-based direction?—Proverbs 3:5, 6; 15:5.
The Trap of Isolation

Another aspect of chat rooms that you do well to consider is the amount of time they consume. José, mentioned at the start of this article, says: “I sometimes became so involved in chat room discussions that I missed meals.”

You may not become as absorbed in chat rooms as José. However, to spend time chatting online, you must buy out time from some other activity. The area prone to suffer immediately may not be your homework or your household chores. The first casualty may be communication with your family. Adrian, who lives in Spain, says: “I would leave the table immediately after a meal and go online to chat. I became so hooked on chat rooms that I virtually stopped talking to my family.”

If you are spending valuable time in chat rooms, you may likewise be isolating yourself from those who matter most to you. The Bible provides this relevant warning: “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” (Proverbs 18:1) The strangers you meet in many chat rooms are unlikely to encourage you to live by the practical wisdom found in the Bible. It is more likely that they will encourage you to seek selfish interests and will tempt you to break free from Christian moral standards.

True, one of the lures of chat rooms may be that you find it easier to talk online than to communicate with family members. Your chat room associates may seem eager to hear your opinion on matters and might openly express their feelings. Your family members, on the other hand, might appear too busy to listen to your concerns and may find it difficult to express their feelings freely.

However, ask yourself: ‘Do my online associates know who I really am? Are they really interested in my long-term welfare?’ Members of your family are far more likely to care about your emotional and spiritual health. If your parents are trying to live by Bible standards, they are keenly interested in communicating with you. (Ephesians 6:4) If you respectfully express your thoughts and feelings to them, they may surprise you by responding more kindly than you expect.—Luke 11:11-13.
A father monitoring his son's use of the Internet

Wisely, show your parents your online destinations
Avoiding the Dangers

You may have a compelling reason to access a chat room—for example, as part of a required school project.% If so, you can ensure that chat rooms do not become a snare for you by taking the following simple precautions.

First, avoid using an Internet-connected computer in the privacy of your own room. Doing so would be like wandering by yourself down a dark street in a strange city—you would be asking for trouble. Rather, keep the computer in a public area of the house where others can easily monitor its use.

Second, encourage better communication with your parents by showing them your online destinations and by explaining why you need to access a particular chat room. Also, set a time limit on how long you will be at the computer, and then stick to it.

Third, install computer programs that will help protect you from online sexual harassment by filtering the content of incoming messages. If you do receive sexual solicitations while online, let your parents or teacher know immediately. In some countries adults who know you are a minor yet solicit you through sexually suggestive text messages or other pornographic material are committing a criminal offense. They should be reported to the police.

In addition, never give out your name, your address, the name of the school you attend, or your phone number to someone you meet in a chat room. And never accept an invitation to meet face-to-face with a person you meet online!

Although written thousands of years ago, the words of wise King Solomon are relevant to the dangers posed by chat rooms: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.”—Proverbs 22:3.

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