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Important tip for AIM users

Important tip for AIM users

AIM stands for AOL Instant Messenger. I used to freely recommend AIM to parents as a safer alternative for their children to IM one another. This is still true but I learned something about AIM this evening that gave me cause for concern. Hence this word of caution.

One of the “features” of AOL that I recommend parents avoid like the plague is anonymous chat in public AOL chatrooms. Well, it turns out AIM also has public chat rooms and, as I found out this evening, they’re no better than the AOL chatrooms. They may even be worse. I went into something called pentagonchat thinking I might engage someone in a discussion about the war. WRONG! In ten minutes I saw dozens of suggestive and vulgar posts with links to about 6 AOL hosted pages, all of which were teen porn web-cam doorway pages. I was totally dumbfounded! These rooms are completely unmoderated and none of them are used for the purpose intended. They are exploited by porn predators and little else. AOL should just scrap the whole concept of public chat altogether. They really should.

Fortunately, there is a way to block access to the AIM chatrooms (Which is not found in their help pages) without inhibiting the other instant messaging features of AIM. You might want to print this out.

Click Start / Settings / Control Panel.
Double click Internet Options.
Click the Contents tab.
Enable Content Advisor.
After choosing your password and Content Advisor is enabled, click the Settings button.
Reenter your password and click OK.

Internet Explorer comes with the RSACi PICS Internet filtering standard preinstalled. You can add others but for our purpose now we’ll just use this one. With Content Advisor enabled, the only sites allowed will be those that fall under the rating levels you set here, assuming pages you view are rated. If you don’t want to affect your general browsing, slide these 4 bars all the way to the right. Otherwise, set the viewing levels you desire.

Now click the Approved Sites tab. Here you can enter sites to always allow or always block. These take precedence over the ratings set earlier. To block access to AIM public chat rooms, copy this text into the Allow this Web site field:   aim:GoChat?RoomName

Now click the Never button. This url now will always be blocked. Children can still IM each other through AIM and they can even invite friends into private chat rooms where only they interact. No public chat at all.

Click the General tab. Here’s where we can have a little fun, especially if SurfSafely.com is your web directory of choice. If you uncheck the box next to Users can see sites that have no rating, users will not be able to view unrated sites at all unless you have added then to the approved list on the previous tab. For users of SurfSafely.com, this is no problem because all sites in the directory must be rated!   If you don’t want to be limited to our directory, then you browse the web at large where only about 0.1% are labeled. In this case, check the box so unrated sites can be viewed.

Finish by clicking OK, then OK again to accept Content Advisor settings. Your kids still get to IM their other friends using AIM or AOL. Just no public chat.

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