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IM, chat increase kids' risk

July 14, 2008 at 5:09 PM   |   Comments

BOSTON, July 14 (UPI) -- The chances of youths being harassed or sexually solicited online increases when they interact via instant messaging and chat rooms, a U.S. newsletter says.

Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, says say instant messaging -- which enables text messages back and forth instantaneously using computers, cell phones, or other devices -- appears to put young people at risk for both bullying and sexual solicitation.

Chat rooms -- forums where people can exchange text messages, engage in virtual conversations, and post images -- pose risks for sexual solicitation and victimization not only because these venues enable participants to communicate directly and privately, but also become some sites encourage the use of obscene language and sexual talk, Miller says.

Miller suggests that to protect young people online parents should focus on the children's online behavior rather than the technology and to:

-- Be aware of what children are doing online and to whom they are communicating.

-- Keep the computer in a family area.

-- Stay engaged as children get older.

-- Help teenagers learn how to keep themselves safe.

-- To prevent sexual victimization, educate young people about the dangers of online interactions.

© 2008 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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