Magazine article Insight on the News

Instant Online Messages Let Fingers Do the Talking

Magazine article Insight on the News

Instant Online Messages Let Fingers Do the Talking

Article excerpt

Increasingly common `instant messaging' is causing concern among parents who are clueless about the technology and concerned about their children's safety on the Internet.

G2G. TTYL. LOL. Most adults have no idea what these abbreviations mean but, to the rapidly increasing number of teens who use online instant-messaging programs, they make perfect sense. G2G? That's short for "Got to go." TTYL? That translates into "Talk to you later." And LOL is the acronym for "Laughing out loud."

About 17 million youths ages 12 through 17 use the Internet, representing nearly 75 percent of those in that age bracket, according to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life project. Three-quarters of teens online use instant messages -- IMs for short -- and one-fifth use them more than the phone.

While the growing popularity of IMs has spawned a new subculture among these online teens, many parents feel uninformed when it comes to instant messaging. More than two-thirds say teens know more about the Internet than they do, and the less online experience they have, the more they worry about their children surfing the World Wide Web.

America Online (AOL) and Microsoft both have IM programs -- AOL Instant Messenger has 100 million users; MSN Messenger Service has 36 million. The programs, free to download, allow computer users to send messages over the Internet that appear immediately on recipients' computer screens. People can talk to each other directly for as long as they are online. Computer users do not have to accept IMs, and they can block people who send them unwanted messages.

But parents who worry about their children being contacted by strangers online may be justified in their fears. Close to 60 percent of teens online say they have received an IM or e-mail from a stranger, according to the Pew study, and 50 percent of them say they have exchanged e-mails or instant messages with someone they never met. …

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