Many mobile instant messaging (MIM) services, such as Mxit and MIG33, also offer anonymous chat rooms. While only a tiny percentage of MIM users use chat rooms, this is a source of revenue for some MIM providers.

Understanding the differences between instant peer-to-peer messaging and anonymous chat rooms is essential. The former is used between friends to communicate, while chat rooms involve anonymous conversations with one or more strangers. As instant mobile messaging services are very popular with children, chat rooms are mainly filled with children. This provides an ideal hunting ground for pedophiles who remain anonymous while using the chat service.

Several cases have been reported in the media where adult men successfully lured teenage girls from mobile chat rooms to a meeting in the real world to sexually exploit them. This is termed "grooming" and is a criminal offense defined in the amended Sexual Offences Act.

Advice to parents

  • Join any anonymous chat room, or if you are technologically challenged, ask someone to show you a chat room on their mobile phone. At this point, you will be better positioned to decide whether your child should use anonymous chat rooms.
  • If you then do decide that your child may use anonymous chat rooms – which is highly unlikely once you see the type of conversations that go on in these chat rooms – you will need to consider the following safety tips for your child:
  • Never divulge any personal information in a chat room, and
  • Never leave chat rooms to engage in private conversations online.

If you decide that your child should not use anonymous chat rooms, recommend using a mobile instant messaging service that does not provide chat room services or at least provides a way to block chat room access.