Instant messages (or IMs) are a popular type of real-time
Internet correspondence that allow one-on-one private dialogue or simultaneous
multiple private exchanges. Usually in the form of a box or small screen
in which sent and received messages are displayed, instant messages are
text based, but can contain links, images, even voice transmissions. Instant
messaging programs run in the background of your computer and pop up messages
as they come in.
Instant messaging services, such as AOLs Instant Messenger and Yahoo!s
Messenger, are very popular today. Often referred to as texting,
instant messaging is a fast and inexpensive way for children and adults
to stay in touch with friends and family.
Someone can send an invitation to text privately with another specific
person online. Buddy lists that show user screen names, or
handles, help users keep track of whos available at
IMs are often used in conjunction with chat rooms
or other online activities.
- To send an instant message, the sender must know
the recipient's user name. Most programs ask for a user profile.
Its important that a childs personal information not be
revealed in such a profile because IMs can be conduits for inappropriate
material. In addition, the real-time, private features of instant messaging
make it attractive for sexual predators looking to establish contact
with their targets. If the child is on their buddy list, they will
know when the child is online.
- Instant messages are sometimes used for harassment.
However, some IM services allow a user to block selected other parties,
which can help make such contact more difficult.