Almost half (49 per cent) of young Canadians in Grades 7-10 use instant messaging everyday. An additional 20 per cent use it several times a week.
(Source: Kids' Take On Media, Canadian Teachers' Federation, 2003)
Parents using IM to talk to their kids
Yes, believe it or not it’s true: parents can learn to use IM and many do to talk with their kids (even when they’re in the house together!). Parents report that the discussions with their teens are more constructive and less emotional when they take place with instant messaging.
Use instant messaging language for a school project
Be creative. Translate a Shakespearean dialogue into a IM conversation -- think Juliet talking to Romeo on instant messaging instead of from a balcony.
Using instant messaging to conduct an interview
Researching for a school assignment? Why not use instant messaging to set up an interview with an authority on the subject.
Protect your privacy when you register for IM software. Many instant messaging problems can be avoided if you are careful when you register. Some companies are very aggressive in trying to make you give out more personal information than you should, so it's a good idea to have an adult sit with you when you are registering. Make sure that your permission is required before anyone can add you to their IM list. And avoid those "personal profiles!"
Create a buddy list of people you know. Only let people join your IM list if you know them in the "real world." Some IM software have a "chat with friends around the world" option, but remember - these aren't friends, they're strangers who may harass you.
Be careful, IM software makes it very easy for strangers to request to be on your buddy list. In fact, the program's default is to let them automatically join your contact list, making it very easy by clicking the 'ok' button.
Use IM software that doesn't offer access to chat rooms. Many IM programs have access to chat rooms that aren't suitable for kids and teens. Some programs link to chat rooms right on the opening screen, even if you have said "no" to the chat option when registering. To avoid this problem, check your IM program carefully to make sure you can "opt out" of chat options.
Don't share your IM username and password with anyone - even friends. Often kids will share their IM passwords with friends, who then misuse their accounts. Choose passwords that can't be easily guessed by others. Random combinations of letters and numbers offer the best protection against password theft.
Report spam to the instant messaging service provider. Even if you have set your IM program to only accept messages from people on your contact list, you may still receive junk mail or even pornographic spam. Use the "Ignore" function to block the sender and then report the spam to your IM service provider.
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. Serious viruses can be sent to your computer this way. If you really want to be able to receive files from friends, make sure that the file sharing settings are set so that files can't be downloaded to your computer without your permission.
Instant messaging can be lots of fun, but sometimes the jokes and humour in your messages can fall flat. Online conversations are different from real-world conversations. Kids will use slang like LOL (laughing out loud) or smilies : ) to show they are joking, but even with these indicators, problems can occur. Because the person you are instant messaging can't see your face or hear your tone of voice it's easy for jokes to be misunderstood - especially if you're using putdowns or insults as humour.
Problems can also occur if you:
Think about it... Have you or your friends encountered any of these problems? Netiquette is a word that's used to describe good manners on the Net. What netiquette rules would you suggest to your friends to prevent problems like these from happening in instant messaging?