The Chatdanger website has been created to inform young people about the potential dangers and ways of keeping safe in interactive areas online, such as chatrooms, instant messenger, online games and email, and also via mobile phones. The aim of the site is very much to inform and empower users of these services, so they can use these services safely, and not at all to discourage people from using these services.
Childnet International originally launched the Chatdanger website in October 2000. Earlier that year Childnet had been contacted by the family of a 13 year-old girl who had been sexually abused by an adult who had first made contact with her in an Internet chatroom. The family very bravely wanted to use their story to help alert other parents to the dangers of chatrooms, and to use their words,
“to ensure that some good comes from this tragic episode by raising awareness of the potential dangers of the Internet, particularly chatrooms”.
Working with the family Childnet launched Chatdanger.com on the day the offender in this case was sentenced.
Within the first four years of this site we have received over 4000 emails from children, young people and parents, expressing their concerns, asking for advice and sharing their stories. The emails we have received have been an incredibly useful source of information, where we are able to find out more about the real issues facing users of the technology. Some of these emails have been used directly (with the sender’s permission) in policy debates and discussions surrounding child safety on the Internet.
With funding from the Daphne Programme of the European Commission, and with Red Barnet, Save the Children Denmark, we have set about reviewing and updating the Chatdanger website and the safety messages. Red Barnet are the natural partners here as they run the only other site in Europe dedicated to the issue of chat safety, Sikkerchat (see www.sikkerchat.dk).
The project team of Childnet International and Red Barnet have done extensive research with young people both in the UK and Denmark to create this new version of Chatdanger. We have held young people's focus groups in both countries to hear their thoughts about interactive areas online and new technology. We talked about the risks they are facing and the best way to put safety messages across to people of their age groups.
We have also reviewed the thousands of emails we have received to our respective sites (Chatdanger and Sikkerchat). This research has led directly to the redesign of the Chatdanger site.