The problems associated with computer chat rooms just never go away. Recent negative publicity has done nothing to brighten the reputation of these ambiguous gabfests, especially when flagrant misuse of privilege or breaking of laws is detected.

Ease of accommodation and availability attracts young people to a more exciting form of communication with people from around the world, and the obvious secrecy makes it that much more “exciting.” When things go too far, there’s a legal problem.

Here, we’re speaking of only verbal chats. Not visual as is currently possible and no exchange of photos by the unwary. If during registration for some chats, an e-mail address is given, that computer is apt to begin receiving unwanted emails; it’s happened before.

There are hundreds of thousands of chat rooms on the Internet, covering every subject under the moon or sun. Do a search on your computer, using just the words “chat rooms” and you’ll be amazed at the various subjects and definitions. Most are free and can be reached by the flick of a key.

Something called “Passions” recently listed a total of 119,972 online members – 73,289 in Maine! The site also claimed more than 5,000 chatters on board at a given time. It was nothing showing much merit.

There are chats in politics, daily news, sports, and almost any direction you might want to go. These chats are worldwide in scope. Most are free, although there’s a developing trend to charge a monthly fee for participation. To provide better service? With better protective security? Perhaps, but probably to make more money!

Chat rooms getting the most attention are those hinting at romance and the possibility of more personal contact and maybe meeting each other. They attract younger people bursting with curiosity and often too gullible for their own good. It takes just one preying adult to upset the pattern of harmless chats on the Internet. Who can blame caring parents for their justified concern?

“#1 Chat Avenue” boasts itself as “World’s Largest Chat Site.” This may be a trifle overdone because within the breadth of the Internet, there may be other web pages making like claims. This site offers a page of attractive logos denoting various chat rooms. I noticed, among the fold, there was a sports chat. I wondered if this was like the sports forums from various sports publications, networks or newspapers.

It was indeed a sports chat, for juvenile sports fans, as displayed by the running commentary. But, here’s the kicker: Interspersed between the youthful statements, almost every other line, was an invitation to join Web pages feasting on various sexual demands. Chat rooms at their most heinous.

“SpinChat,” crafted out of Regensburg, Germany, is one of the more cosmopolitan chat sites. It’s free to use it, but it requires that users register with a password. It has a constantly changing array of sites and is firmly monitored. Foreign languages surface often here.

Within “My Space,” a popular chat site among young people, “Perspectives” offers “free speech” and “free membership.” These sites are not monitored so thus offer all sorts of escapades for false names and whatever goes with them.

Seniors too have chat outlets, in a vastly different vein since seniors are supposed to be more mature in intent and purpose (whatever that means). “Senior Site” has a photo gallery for those who wish to use it, as well as a place to post biographical information. The unwelcomed are booted, and it’s a friendly gathering.

“Frisky Seniors” is a new kid of the block and offers many of the same amenities. There’s an international flavor here too, making friendly chats more interesting. Access can be denied to those taking indecent liberties.

There’s much to complain about in the chat rooms. But there’s a rewarding side if we have the patience to look for it. Better and more complete registration is one answer but the greatest fault we live with is that nobody “manages” the Internet. By the same token, as long as valued free programs such as InfanView, Picasa, Web MD and WorldStart share their worth, clutter of brash chat rooms is offset.

Hey, it’s worth a look.


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