Is It Healthy To Chat With Random People Online?
By: Marie Miguel
Updated February 02, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley
The Internet has made it possible for people of every age and nationality to communicate with friends, family, and strangers across the globe. It seems like every day there is a new tool or app designed for consumers to purchase and use. There are so many that it can be hard to keep pace.
People have been chatting online since the '90s. New chat apps and chat rooms are starting up more and more. Despite the massive appeal of chat, one has to wonder if it's really healthy to get involved in an anonymous chat with random people. Here are a few questions to consider before you connect.
Who's On Chat?
Slack, a team chat app, had 250,000 users in 2015. During 2020, Slack had about 12 million daily active users. Many other chat apps are designed for socializing rather than conducting work communications. The largest platforms you’ve probably heard of: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Weixin/WeChat, and QQ all have millions of users every month. People with nearly every interest and nearly every kind of work and life circumstances are chatting online.
Is It Safe?
The main danger of chatting online is that someone will want to find you in the real world without your permission. It's safer by far to choose anonymous chat rooms and chat apps rather than trying to chat with strangers on social media sites like Facebook, where your real name is listed. If you want to stay safe, don't chat about personal information. Never share financial information or agree to send someone money of any kind.
Dating sites are notorious for fake profiles. Stories abound about people being duped: widows, widowers, lonely and rich, lonely and poor. Anyone who goes online looking for a mate needs to be very careful not to be taken in by a predator or a thief. Many lives have been lost and many fortunes stolen by unscrupulous users. Many identities have been stolen. The perpetrators are rarely caught even though police departments throughout the world have set up task forces to monitor predators and thieves.
Hacking has also become almost epidemic. Some hackers do it just to prove they are smarter than anyone else. Change your user passwords often and make sure they do not contain your date of birth, your address, or your spouse's name. A combination of numbers, words, and signs are the best. Never share your password. Use the latest version of an anti-virus. If you have more than one email account, make sure your passwords and usernames are different. Make sure you lock your phone, so it can't be opened if you lose it.
Are People Honest On Chat?
There is some evidence that people frequently make things up when chatting. Men tend to lie most often about their social and financial position. Women tend to lie the most to stay safe. If you chat online, always remember that the information you get may be complete fiction. If you hold onto that reality, you can enjoy casual exchanges.
Can You Receive Emotional Support?
Chatting with someone who is in similar circumstances to yours offers a way to get support for your specific challenges. A cancer chat room or a pregnancy chat room can be beneficial because it gives you a chance to share information about the condition, related treatments, and the emotional challenges it presents. According to information from the Chat Room Survey, people who chatted online often were more likely to give and receive emotional support.
How Can Parents Protect Their Children And Teens?
Teens are especially intrigued when something new is advertised and a new fad is born. Parents need to keep informed as to the tools their children are using. When using one of these tools, it is necessary to make up a profile and sign in. Like anyone else, a teen’s real name should never be disclosed, and certainly not their surname. Not everyone is honest, and their profile may not describe who they are or where they are, and you have no way of checking for accuracy.
Parents need to make sure they know what sites their children are visiting and teach them to be "web savvy." Parents can also find sites that require parental permission. However, we must be realistic. Teens are especially secretive and resent parent interference, but the adult in the equation has to be persistent and make rules to be followed.
Parents need to instruct their children and heed their advice about what information to post online and what information to "share." For example, where you live, what school you attend, where you work, what vehicle you drive, your date of birth, your last name, your confidential numbers (SIN, driver’slicense, credit card or bank account numbers) should never be put online, even if someone you trust asks for it. Never send money to anyone you do not personally know. Many gullible people have fallen for false stories entreaties to send money. Never, never do it.
Never agree to meet a stranger you've only "met" online. Women and children are especially putting themselves at risk of being abducted or worse. It happens to men as well. You just have to listen to the news to know the dangers of meeting strangers. Because children are naïve and too often willing to believe what they are being told online, they are easy targets for predators. Some children and teens even to agree to meet the online person in their home when the parents are away - a sure recipe for trouble.
An organization called "Enough is Enough" did a survey and found one in seven children are sexually solicited by strangers and more than half the children surveyed were asked for pictures.
Teenagers often use chatting online to express their sadness and life problems. If they find a sympathetic ear, they begin to believe that the persons with whom they are sharing their private thoughts are their "friends." And this is not always the case. A predator could be posing as the “friend,” and a false sense of intimacy is created.
Can You Have Healthy Relationships When You Chat With Random People Online?
While research about the benefits and risks of chat is in its infant stages, some studies have been done to find out if online chat is healthy. Some evidence suggests that relationships formed in online chat rooms tend to be healthy and also improve social skills for people to build better face-to-face relationships. Proper safety precautions are an important part of healthy online chatting.
Online relationships can have many of the same benefits and problems as relationships off-line. If you are concerned about a relationship or your online behaviors, you can speak to a licensed counselor via BetterHelp.com. There are also BetterHelp chat rooms available to get support with your specific problems and conditions. BetterHelp is also a particularly good resource if you are looking for emotional support with any issue, and your counselor may be able to guide you to good group resources.
While we may think of therapy as being only for the mentally ill, therapy is a good tool for anyone. The HuffPost ran an article about what some of those benefits, and they include problem-solving techniques, accountability for goals, and finding better insight and purpose to yourself. There’s also proven science that talking about your feelings is good for your brain. While therapy is going to look a little bit different for everyone, most types of talk therapy translate well online when you’re dealing with an issue that isn’t severe.
There are a few other benefits to online therapy that might be helpful to consider. If you’ve never done therapy before, or are nervous about returning, it might be an easier first step to connect with someone in a place where you’re comfortable rather than having to head into an office. And with BetterHelp, you can do just that: you can reach out to your counselor anywhere you have a reliable, secure internet connection. Online therapy also tends to be more affordable than traditional therapy.
If you’d still like some more information to consider, here are some recent reviews by BetterHelp users about working with their counselors:
“Carrie has been a brilliant source of help and support throughout what was a hard year, to say the least. She has provided me with resources and an outlet to build strength and resilience while I tackled some real challenges. Carrie always sent me through relevant resources and connected me with some great assets. She's been amazing and I can't thank her enough!” Read more on Carrie Hillebrandt.
“Elsa Quintanilla has been an amazing help to me mentally and emotionally. I was always hesitant to get a therapist or get some help again as my past experience with another therapist wasn’t great but once BetterHelp matched me with Elsa I knew right away that she was a perfect match for me. I felt right away a good connection with Elsa and felt comfortable in being able to share my troubles with her, her willingness to listening and giving great advice makes her a great therapist that I would recommend to many.” Read more on Elsa Quintanilla.
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