What is MSN Messenger?

MSN messenger is a free instant messaging software.  You can chat online and send instant messages to your friends individually or in groups. You need to ‘add’ your friends to your address book in order to chat with them.

You can see your friends’ status messages, new photos they post, and blog comments. You can also see what they’re up to on other social networks. View and comment on photos with a friend in real time. Simply drag and drop pictures into the conversation window and watch as your friend flips through the pictures.

Chat simultaneously with a group to keep everyone up-to-date at once. Each Group in Messenger gets its own home page and group calendar. Messenger groups can include up to 20 people.

All  this can be fun if it is used sensibly and appropriately.  I suggest as with everything the only way to fully understand social networking sites is to join them and try them out. As a parent you need to know what your chidren are doing and what dangers if any to protect them from.

On MSN chat there are a number of dangers:

Your children may ‘add’ people they do not know. Although chatting online can be great fun, young people can sometimes find themselves in situations where they can feel out of their depth. Risks can arise when young people give out their personal details to strangers. The online world can often seem very different to the real world for young people, and they can be tempted to say and do things that they wouldn’t dream of if they met someone face to face. This can include giving out personal information such as mobile numbers and pictures of themselves. If they are talking to another child there is a risk that they will misuse this information—for example, by texting abusive messages to the child, or by posting their image on a website; but there is obviously a greater risk if the person that they are chatting to is an adult.

Unfortunately, paedophiles—adults who want to meet young people for sex—use the internet, often with the intention of talking with and meeting a child. Young people can be naive to this risk, and often feel that they are invincible, or that ‘they would know if someone was lying’. Young people will often ‘swap friends’ through IM, and therefore can be chatting to strangers who they feel they trust because a friend of a friend knows them. IM is a very intimate form of communication—more so than a chat room with many participants, and therefore child abusers will often use this as a means to extract personal information from a young person.

Ensure that you regularly sit with your child and scroll through their address book. Ask who each ‘friend’ is. If they don’t know them, that is, they have not met them ensure that they delete them.

Your child may witness or contribute to unpleasant or mean conversations with or about others.  Ensure that you speak with your child and discuss a code of ethics and ettiquette on line. Ask to see their conversation logs from time to time.