Instant Messaging (IM)

A service that allows people to send and get messages almost instantly. To send messages using Instant Messaging you need to download an Instant-Messaging program and know the Instant-Messaging address of another person who uses the same Instant-Messaging program.

Examples:

There are many instant messaging services. Some of the most popular ones include: AIM, eBuddy, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and Skype.

Stay Safe:

Here are some recommended rules from Media Awareness Network for teens that can help you as parents keep your children safer with instant messaging:

Protect your kids' privacy during the registration process
When your kids register for instant messaging software, sit with them and make sure that their authorization is required before anyone adds them to an IM list. As well, discourage them from filling out the "personal profile" that some programs ask users for this information is made available to other users, so young people should never use this option.

Make sure the IM software they use doesn't offer access to chat rooms
Many IM programs offer access to chat rooms where users can talk to strangers. One popular program offers a link to chat rooms right on the opening screen even if users opted out of the chat option when they registered. To avoid this problem, check your IM program carefully to make sure you can block access to chat rooms; and make sure your kids know that they're off limits.

Teach kids never to share their IM user names and passwords with others, online or in the non-virtual world
Kids often share their IM passwords with friends, which can easily lead to account misuse. Remind your kids to choose passwords that can't easily be guessed by others. Random combinations of letters and numbers offer the best protection against password theft.

Report pornographic junk mail to the instant messaging service provider
Even if your child's IM program have been configured to accept only messages from people on the contact list, she or he may still receive "spam," or junk mail even pornographic spam. Use the "Ignore" function to block that sender in future, and report the spam to the service provider. Because this is a frequent problem with some IM programs it's not recommended that young children use instant messaging.

Disable any file-sharing options
Most IM programs offer a file sharing option that allows users to download files to your computer's hard drive. However, serious viruses can be sent to your computer this way. If your child wants to be able to receive files from friends, make sure that the file sharing settings are configured so that you have to give your permission before a file can be downloaded to your computer.

Additional Resources:

Email IM & Chat Rooms
Email IM and Chat Room information tips and discussion from NetSmartz .

FAQ about Chat and Instant Messaging
Information and tips on how to stay safe in a chat room from ThinkUKnow.

What's New Online - IM (Instant Messaging)
Information for Teens about Instant Messaging from ThinkUKnow.