The dangers of anonymous chatrooms

GRACE KING
Last updated 12:21 25/10/2013

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OPINION: "Ask an anonymous question", "Chat to friends and strangers anonymously". These are the options on the newest websites most popular with teenagers today. Do you notice the main word there? Anonymous.

There is a growing trend of teen-aimed websites that perpetuate anonymity and being unaccountable for anything you say to a person. You're free, even encouraged to create a fake online persona, say whatever you want to and about people without consequences.

Ask.fm and Connected2.me are the two newest additions to the widening range of social websites catering to teenagers around New Zealand and the world that are built on being anonymous.

Connected2.me is similar to Ask.fm, but instead of asking questions, you are in a chat room where everyone is anonymous. You need an account to make the chat room, but once it's there, anyone can join. The names of other users are coded to protect anonymity, but in fact this could be the most dangerous feature. 

Although I've yet to hear about anyone being bullied through Connected2.me, it's an inevitable consequence of the style of website it is; anyone can chat to you anonymously without registration, easily allowing cyber-bullying to a new extent past any other website currently popular with teens.

This need for anonymity is becoming dangerous; because all of this happens online, there is no culpability for someone's actions. Teenagers begin to loose trust in the people around them.

Online, it could be anyone, from your best friend to a stranger on the other side of the world, saying anything they want.

I asked one person in my class if they knew about the website, and it turned out they had used it. "I noticed that if someone leaves the chat, but you don't close the window, when they come back it just opens the same window. So, if someone says 'I hate you' and you leave the window open, if they say it again at least you know it's only one person."

While that is one concession for them, I think that really, we shouldn't need or use websites like this. They perpetuate obscurity and a lack of responsibility for your words and actions.

Why do people need to be anonymous? If you have something to say, be honest. If it's not something nice, grow up and practise some self-control. 

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- Waikato Times

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