8 precautions to be taken while chatting online

The shocking and gruesome murder of 42-year-old Soma Ghosh in Kolkata by a person whom she had met on Facebook, rivets the spotlight on the perils involved in interacting with strangers on social networking sites.

Soma Ghosh, who met her would-be assailant on Facebook, made the mistake of inviting him to her home just a fortnight after meeting him online. The accused Abhishek Majumdar, who had created a fake profile, allegedly stabbed her in a fit of rage after she rebuffed his advances.

Soma Ghosh’s is not a one-off case. As social networking sites become popular by the day, it comes with attendant problems and hazards.

Here are some precautions you should take while chatting online.

1. Use FB privacy settings

The Facebook privacy settings allow you to control who gets to see what. You can segregate your friends into acquaintances, friends and family and ensure that everyone doesn’t have full access to your profile and only a few (close friends and family) have.

2. Don’t talk to strangers

Remember what your parents told you when you were a child. Don’t talk to strangers. Accept friend requests from known people. If you want to add strangers, ensure you follow rule #1.

3. Watch your status messages

Don’t use your Facebook status application to tell the world about your itinerary for the day. You never know who is stalking you in the virtual world.

4. Keep changing your password often

Avoid using obvious things like your date of birth, name, boyfriend’s name and so on. Your password is like the keys of your home, don’t share it with anyone. Keep it only to yourself and change it often.

5. Impersonation is rampant. Beware!

The anonymity provided by the virtual world and fear of being stalked often prompts people to impersonate. A considerable number of Facebook profiles are fakes and people often withhold correct information about themselves or provide wrong ones. Do not reveal your real name while chatting; instead use a pseudo/nickname as your username. Avoid provocative nicknames as it tends to attract wrong attention.

6. Do not share personal information

Do not share any personal information on the profile such as email address, mobile phone number, home or school address. When you start chatting with someone you met online, stick to general topics and refrain from talking too much about yourself.

7. Do not share pics

Do not share your pics in chat rooms as they can be misused. Identity theft is a grave issue and can have dangerous repercussions.

8. Never have private chats with strangers

Do not leave public chat rooms and encourage private conversations unless you are very sure about the identity of the person you are chatting with. Chatting in public ensures someone or the other would alert you in case you are being harassed. Private chats can often be used by online bullies to harass you.

Remember, chatting is like driving on an expressway. If you are attentive and follow the rules, you are safe and it would be a pleasurable experience. If you go overboard and flout the rules, accidents are inevitable.