“Being shy, I can go into a chat room online and talk with people I normally would not talk to. They have no idea who I am.”—Peter.*
“In a chat room, you have the feeling that you can say whatever you want.”—Abigail.
CHAT ROOMS are “areas” on the Internet where users can have live, two-way conversations via text messages. Chat rooms can accommodate large numbers of people, who can read and respond to each other’s messages.
Some chat rooms are particularly appealing to youthful Internet users. Millions of young people from a variety of cultures exchange opinions daily on almost any subject. Some schools now tap this global resource. For example, with their teacher’s supervision, students in the United States might discuss social issues with fellow students in Spain, England, or elsewhere. Students may even chat about their class project with a qualified engineer, chemist, or another expert.
Many people who visit chat rooms, though, are not there to discuss academic subjects. If you have access to the Internet, what dangers should you be aware of?
A Hunting Ground for Sexual Predators
“I was talking with some people in a chat room,” says Abigail, “when a man asked me if I knew any 14-year-olds. He wanted to have sex with them. He said that he was willing to give them money for sex.”
Abigail’s experience is not an isolated one. The problem of online predators is so widespread that some governments have produced guides on how youths can be protected. For example, a publication of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States warns of individuals who immediately engage in sexually explicit talk. It also warns of those who “gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts.”
Describing the specific methods used by some of these predators, the FBI guide says: “They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to lower children’s inhibitions gradually by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations.”
It is not just perverted adults who pose a danger. You also need to beware of youths who are ignorant of or who deride the Bible’s moral standards. Consider the experience of a young man named Cody. He was chatting with other youths online when a girl invited him into a private chat area. She then asked him a sexually suggestive question. Cody had the self-control to terminate the conversation immediately.
Because of a natural interest in sex, you may find it extremely difficult to react the way Cody did. Peter, mentioned earlier, admits: “I thought I had enough self-control to terminate a chat session if the subject turned to sex. But time and again, I found myself hanging on and chatting about sexual subjects. I felt bad later.” You may wonder, though, ‘If I hide who I am in a chat room, is there really any harm in talking about sex online?’
Are Online Sex Discussions Harmful?
The Bible talks openly about sex. (Proverbs 5:18, 19) Admittedly, humans have an increased interest in sex during youth. So you should talk about sex. You need answers to your questions on this important subject.* However, the way you satisfy your curiosity about sexual matters will have a profound impact on your happiness, both present and future.
If you choose to chat online about sex, even if it is with people who say they are your friends, your experience could well end up being like that of a young man described in the Bible. Out of curiosity, he wandered near the house of a prostitute. At first, she just talked to him. Once his desire was aroused, though, talk was not enough. “All of a sudden he is going after her, like a bull that comes even to the slaughter, . . . just as a bird hastens into the trap.”—Proverbs 7:22, 23.
Similarly, talking about sex online could easily lead to your going after greater…