Newsgroups - sometimes called online bulletin boards - are Web sites that serve as forums for groups of people with shared interests. Participants in a newsgroup can read and display messages and post and download files and photos. Unlike chat rooms, newsgroups are not "real-time" or live discussions. Material posted on the sites remains there for the newsgroup's members to view at their convenience. Depending on the newsgroup, postings can remain on the site indefinitely.

Newsgroups exist on every topic and interest imaginable, from golf to travel to computers. But many newsgroups focus on subject matters that are inappropriate for children. Some are dedicated to violence, pornography, hate activity, drug use, and other objectionable topics.

Newsgroups pose several dangers to children:
  • Some deal with inappropriate and illicit subject matters. Content and images posted on these sites can be disturbing and otherwise emotionally harmful to children.
  • Because people can post messages to each other on a newsgroup's Web site, children in newsgroups can be easily contacted by strangers, including Internet predators.
  • Because they are often unmonitored, even newsgroups dealing with harmless subject matters are very likely to be polluted with objectionable postings.
  • The topic of a newsgroup gives strangers insight into subjects that interest participating children. Knowing that information can help child predators gain their trust.
  • A child's postings - such as writings, photos, or other material of a personal nature - are available for anyone in the newsgroup to see.
  • It is difficult to know the true identities of members of a newsgroup. This means parents will not know who is actually viewing their children's postings on a newsgroup and what their motivations may be.
Tips for Parents
  • Restrict your children's participation in newsgroups. If your child is a newsgroup member, ensure the subject matter is appropriate and monitor the newsgroup's postings regularly.
  • Explain to your children that they should never post identifying photos or personal information about themselves or their family on a newsgroup's Web site.