Chat rooms allow users to initiate conversation by typing messages that will instantly appear on other users' screen who are in the discussion. A number of online services, such as social networking sites, offer this feature in which specific virtual rooms are created by the website service, or participants can create their own public or private virtual room to discuss a subject of interest.
Some chat rooms are a part of a sign-up or subscription website and users can log on to the chat rooms with their specific profile, while others allow users to create pseudonyms (nicknames) as a way to remain anonymous. Some chat rooms go beyond typed conversations, giving users the ability to post pictures, run a web camera, or file share (i.e., exchange music). Chat rooms are also found in other electronics connected to the Internet beyond the home computer, such as video game systems, which allow users to play their favorite games and chat with other players around the world.
As web technology continues to develop, the use of traditional chat rooms has become somewhat obsolete. These days most computers come equipped with a web camera, expanding the traditional methods of communication to include video. Like with all technology, video chatting does not come without problems. While web cameras provide the opportunity to connect with friends and family in different parts of the country or world, they can also provide the opportunity for voyeurism and oversharing. Programs like Skype, Google Talk and Windows Live Messenger provide a forum to connect with other users on your "buddy" or "contact" list. Other programs, such as Chatroullette, Zupyo, and JayDoe, allow users to video chat with complete strangers, using a variety of different criteria for random connections.
Texting and Sexting
For most teens, a cell phone is no longer a device for verbal communication. Instead they are used as mini-computers, a source to provide a constant stream of information. Talking itself, has been replaced been texting, allowing users to remain in constant contact with friends and colleagues. Like much of what is put on the internet, once out there, a text message is no longer the user's to control. Studies are finding that educating your teens and yourself about text messaging can potentially save a lot embarrassment and a lot of money. For example:
- It is easy to say something in texting that you would not have the courage to say to a person's face. Sometimes,this means that it's better left unsaid.
- A text message is not necessarily a private conversation between two people, but between you and everyone that other person chooses to forward it to.
- Depending on your plan, text messaging can be expensive. Each text message can add an additional charge on your monthly bill.
As cell phone technology has evolved, users are now able to use their phones as music players, storage devices and cameras. The presence of both digital still and video cameras on cell phones is both a positive and negative. They allow you to capture those unexpected cannot miss moments, and easily share them with family and friends. However, given the size and ambiguity of cell phones they also provide an opportunity for strangers to capture you in less than flattering situations. However, cell phone cameras in the hands of strangers should not be the only cause for concern.
Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones and is a growing trend among younger users. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy 20 % of teens have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves. 48% of teens say they have received such messages. In many cases, what is intended as a two way communication is shared amongst friends and classmates. 36 Percent of teen girls and 39 % of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.Sexting can not only lead to embarrassment and shame for the original sender, but can also lead to criminal charges with, both the original sender and the mass distributor being charged with the distribution of child pornography.