For Seniors: Participate in an Online Chat

A chat room is an online space where groups of people can talk back and forth via text, audio, web camera, or a combination of media. In chat, you're having a conversation with one or more people in real time (without delay, as you experience with a discussion board), and your entire conversation appears in the chat window. Here are some characteristics of chat that you should know about:

  • When the chat is over, unless you save a copy, the conversation is typically gone.

  • Several people can interact at once, although this can take getting used to as you try to follow what others are saying and jump in with your own comments.

  • When you find a chat you want to participate in, sign up to get a screen name, and then you simply enter the chat room, enter your comment, and submit it. Your comment shows up in the stream of comments, and others may — or may not — reply to it.

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When you're talking to someone in a chat room with multiple people, if the site offers the option, you could invite him to enter a private chat room, which keeps the rest of the folks who wandered into the chat room out of your conversation.

Also, others can invite you into private chat rooms. Be careful who you interact with in this way, and be sure you understand the motivations for making your conversation private. This may be entirely reasonable, or it may be that you’re dealing with someone with suspect motivations.

Before you get started, check out the website’s Terms of Use, privacy, and monitoring and abuse reporting procedures to understand the safety protections in place before joining a conversation. Some sites are well monitored for signs of abusive content or interactions; others have no monitoring at all. If you don’t like the terms, find a different site.

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