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What is a Chat Room?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Internet has been invaluable in permitting people from around the globe to talk to each other, and one of the easiest ways for people to communicate online is through a chat room. Chat rooms are designated areas on the Internet where people with similar interests can communicate with each other by typing on a keyboard. The conversations happen in real time and typed messages are sent to the other participants, who can then type a message in response. Most chat rooms are categorized by topic, so users can find conversations that interest and apply specifically to them.


Chat rooms are easily accessible and most are free to join. It is possible to search for chat rooms through an Internet browser; literally thousands of chat rooms exist. Most require users to log in with a user name, and there is often an option to add additional personal information as well, things like relationship status, age, and gender. The chat room area will typically be divided into different sections according to interests; almost every topic imaginable is covered in some chat room — from stamp collecting to kangaroo breeding in Australia’s outback. Once a user is logged in, conversations can be had by typing messages back and forth between others.


Within a chat room, there may be a moderator who monitors the content of the conversation in order to prevent abuse. There has been some controversy over the use of moderators within chat rooms; many people consider a moderator to be an infringement of their privacy. Moderators have been known to shut down a conversation if the content is deemed unacceptable or inflammatory.

In a case regarding AOL Inc, previously known as American Online, a moderator shut down a chat room when a heated debate over Irish politics arose between two chat room participants; AOL closely monitored the conversation and eventually decided to shut down the chat room in order to give the participants time to calm down. The controversy arose after upset AOL customers became concerned over privacy issues. In the past, AOL users had to pay for their Internet service; in the same way a person would not expect a telephone company to listen to personal phone calls, and shut them down if the company did not approve of the content, AOL users felt that a privacy rule should also be applied to conversations in chat rooms.


Chat rooms offer a way to learn, talk, and socialize, but there is a flip side. The fact that it is easy to be anonymous has lead to abuse of the system with virtually no consequences. Children and teens love chat rooms, and reports of the dangers of chat rooms are widespread; many cases of child sexual abuse have occurred after minors decide to meet a person with whom they have been chatting. Parents need to be aware of whom their children are conversing with via Internet chat rooms.

There have also been reports that chat rooms lead to social interaction problems; long hours spent alone using chat rooms have been thought to lead to poor social skills. By relying on chat rooms as a primary form of communication with others, social skills can deteriorate. If the chat room is used responsibly, however, it can be a fun and useful tool; it is when the virtual world is used as a substitute for the real world that problems may occur.


While chat rooms are a popular means of communication, many Internet providers and companies provide "forums" on their websites as opposed to chat rooms. Forums differ from chat rooms because they are usually temporarily archived, if not permanently. Also, forums are commonly used to ask questions and have other people give input more than conversing with others for the sake of conversation.

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Discussion Comments

By suleman1546 — On Oct 25, 2014

A chatroom is a place on the Internet where people connect with each others and talk in different languages.

By anon294159 — On Sep 30, 2012

AOL also shut down message boards, where political conversations were taking place and changing the landscape. Facts and intelligence were winning over propaganda and rhetoric. AOL shut it down.

By anon233173 — On Dec 04, 2011

Chatrooms were a delight when they first began, because so few people had access and children especially. It was quite invigorating and good conversations took place. Then the floodgates opened and it became quite insufferable. I haven't been in one for over ten years and would only go back out of curiosity to see how they are now being run.

By anon204049 — On Aug 07, 2011

Chat rooms are not only dangerous to children, they are dangerous to anyone who doesn't know what's on the internet and how to react to it. It's also dangerous to people who don't understand the concept that people will lie if they want to.

If anyone from any age group can grasp that concept, then there's nothing wrong with occasionally conversing in a chat room. One thing to keep in mind though is that there are one-on-one chats to make conversations more personal, and chat rooms that usually consist of more than one person and are more surrounded by a group discussion type environment.

If parents want to monitor their children using chat rooms, one-on-one chats should be their main concern. Since it is more personal, it's easier to get information out of people.

By Artyest — On May 22, 2011

@eduguy1313 - Agreed! While there are certainly chat rooms for adults, there are some services and chat software geared and helping children (with their parents supervision) learn about the internet, chatting, and webcam chat rooms in a safe environment. It can be a great way for your child to make new friends! Even international friends.

By eduguy1313 — On May 20, 2011

@anon133388 - I agree that online chat rooms can be dangerous for children, and that parents should monitor all interactions their children have online, but there are many benefits to chat rooms in general. A friend of mine learned a second language by conversing with other individuals in a chat room of a different language.

By anon133388 — On Dec 10, 2010

chat rooms are very dangerous for children, because children are not conscious of internet chat room predators.

Parents should not only understand the new technology but educate themselves on the changes from day to day as well, so they do not have to deprive their children from using the internet but can control their activities while getting access to it.

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