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What are Google Hangouts?

Google Hangouts is an instant messaging and video chat platform developed by Google. It allows users to hold conversations between two to ten users, thorugh Gmail, Google+ websites, or mobile apps.

Like with any voice/text/video messaging application, children need to be mindful of who receives their messages, what those messages contain and how it could be used to hurt them. Communicating with someone not known to a child in real life, sharing personal information and/or putting an image of a child on any site could put them at risk for victimization.

This application poses risks for children because of the instant access they would have for communication with people they don’t know and trust in real life. In addition, the portability of these devices means children may have more unsupervised use than if they were at a computer. Parents and guardians should always be aware of what applications children are downloading and using on their phones just as you would know which websites they are accessing on the computer.

The rules we tell children to follow when posting pictures online is to think before posting photos. The same goes for sharing photos via messaging services. Personal photos should not have revealing information, such as school names or locations. Look at the backgrounds of the pictures to make sure you are not giving out any identifying information without realizing it. The name of a mall, the license plate of your car, signs, or the name of your sports team on your jersey or clothing all contain information that can give your family's location away. Once and image or video is online it is very difficult to remove it completely.

NetSmartz411 recommends that parents and guardians always know who their children are communicating with, especially on cell phones and what images or text messages they may be sending or receiving. Cell phones may allow for more unsupervised communication with adults. Consider confiscating cell phones from children at bedtime to prevent late night and unsupervised communication. Talk to children about the potential risks of communicating with adults they do not know and trust in real life. If you ever feel that your child is being exploited, make a report at www.cybertipline.com.