The Internet allows tens of millions of Americans to participate in a thriving social world where they can engage in serious and satisfying contact with online communities and educational institutions. A recent survey reported that 84% of Internet users have contacted some form of an online group or educational chat group that is either synchronous, meaning occurring in real time, or asynchronous, referring to not interacting at the same time. That fact means that more Americans have used the Internet to contact a chat group than have received news online, searched for health information, or even purchased something on the Internet.

Online synchronous chats can be distant geographically and allow users to connect easily with others around the world. Survey research indicates that a large number ...

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