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IRC is used more by adults and includes much more "adult" topics for discussion.
People use nicknames to identify themselves in chat rooms, and often choose outrageous names that may attract unwelcome attention.
Most schools try to block children from getting onto chat services using the school Internet connection, but this is not foolproof and children may just go to a friend's house or other place instead. Children may be exposed to inappropriate language and ideas, such as explicit sexual talk.
Some websites are dedicated completely to chat and some which have chatrooms as just one of the services they offer.
Chat users are not always fully honest about themselves and their characteristics, but the person who chats has no way of knowing if "studmuffin, 17" is really "weird man, 39".
It is best to choose nicknames that don't make your gender obvious or attract the wrong kind of interest, such as "sexybeast15".
Chats often make heavy use of abbreviations that are hard for outsiders to understand, many of which are also used by people sending text messages on their mobile phones.
Young people make friends easily, and are often willing to give out personal details like their email address, home address and phone numbers to characters they meet online, especially if the child is using the Internet from a place they think of as "safe", like home or school.