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Moms, Dads, and The Kids, Having Fun, While Surfing The Net Together
Instant Messengers and Your Kids
About Instant Messengers
It used to be that kids talked on the phone to their friends. Now they use instant messengers online to talk with their friends. They are a lot of fun for kids but there can be dangers in using them.
Instant Messengers Are...
Instant messengers are programs that installed on your computer that allow for real-time communication over the Internet. People receive a nickname or handle and they contact each other by sharing that name. Once they have contacted each other they send text messages back and forth. They can also share files such as pictures over the instant messenger. They are commonly referred to as IM which stands for instant messages.
Popular Instant Messenger Programs
Many of the same features exist in all the different programs. The main preference of programs is the one that your group of friends is using so that you can communicate with them. Probably the most popular instant messenger program is AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). This program is free and is already installed on many computers that you buy. You do not need to subscribe to AOL to use it. Some other instant messengers are: Windows Messenger from MSN (this instant messenger is already installed on your computer if you use Outlook Express for your email), Yahoo Instant Messenger, ICQ, and Miranda.
The Culture of IM
There is an entire culture that goes along with instant messaging that includes acronyms, smilies and icons. Acronyms are used as short hand for common expressions. Many acronyms used in IM are listed in the acronym dictionary. Smilies or emoticons are used to show expression in your messages and are important because people can't see the expression in your face when you send a message. These are so important and commonly used that there are shortcuts in most programs (like AIM to add a smiley icon in your message. Learn more about smilies and emoticons in our Smilies and Emoticons reference page. Another common thing with IM users are buddy icons. These are graphic icons that can be downloaded and installed in the program for each user that represent a person like a baseball buddy icon for fans of baseball. Many Web sites offer these and a quick search at Google will help you find these or you can use the many free ones available for AIM.
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