Instant messaging is a text-based communication tool that allows you to talk to family and friends in real-time. When you send someone a message it appears on his or her screen right away, so it's just like you're talking face-to-face.
Popular instant message providers
Why it's great
Instant messaging, AKA IM, is a great tool for chatting with friends, discussing homework with classmates and staying in touch with family. Plus, when set up properly you choose who is and who isn't on your contact list — meaning you only talk to the people you want to.
The not so great
Some people aren't honest about who they really are online, so make sure your contact list only includes people you know in the real world.
If you don't pay careful attention to your account preferences anyone can contact you and see your personal information. This makes it easy for you to get unwanted spam messages, be bullied or be contacted by strangers.
Don't be afraid to BLOCK unwanted contacts and tell a trusted adult.
Set it up together!
Creating a personal account with the right preferences, password and username can be tricky, so make sure you and your parents or trusted adult do it together. That way you can be sure your account preferences are set to put you in control.
Remember! Make your password something that isn't easily guessed, and pick a username that doesn't involve your whole name.
Top concerns for instant messaging:
Check your preferences! Make sure personal information is private.
Immediately block strangers or bullies who are contacting you.
Make sure your contact list only includes people you know in the real world.
Never use a personal photo as your buddy icon or profile picture.
Don't use a webcam with people you don't know.
Keep instant messaging fun by never using it for rumors or gossip.
Get more tips on how you can make instant messaging safer for your kids
When your kids register for instant messaging software, sit with them and make sure that authorization is required before anyone adds them to an IM list.
Discourage kids from filling in their personal profile — this information is made public, so young people should never use this option.
Help your kids create their own contact list, and make sure their contacts are only friends from the real world.
Letting your child use an IM program that offers access to chat rooms means your kids are more likely to interact with strangers.
Report unwanted adult junk mail to the IM service provider. Use the “Ignore" function to block that sender in future.
Disable any file sharing options so that potentially harmful viruses can’t be downloaded to your computer’s hard drive.