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Internet-based communities where users can discuss and share ideas around specific topics or interest areas.
Groups, also referred to as forums and sometimes newsgroups, have been around almost since the dawn of the Internet. They were originally developed so that scientists could post questions (and answers) to each other. Today, groups resemble bulletin boards, where people discuss subjects of mutual interest by posting comments. Groups revolve around specific topics, such as wireless technology or organic food. You can read what others have written and add your own thoughts.
Several Internet platforms now support groups, including:
- Many social networking sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn, allow users to create and join groups.
- Some video chat and conferencing apps allow users to join online discussion.
- Instant messaging apps, along with providing a place to chat with your friends, often feature discussion groups for users to participate in.
- Online chatrooms are often organized into interest or social groups.
Groups can be public, allowing non-members to view comments and possibly even post to the group discussions. Many forums use this model, allowing anyone to view past discussions, but requiring users to register before they can actively post to the site. Other groups are private, so only those invited to join or who ask permission and are accepted into the group can view and contribute to conversations.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find a group to join?
A simple web search is the best way to locate forums, newsgroups, and chatrooms focusing on a specific topic. Simply search for the topic you’re looking to discuss, along with terms such as “forum” or “discussion group” or even just “group.” If there are regional or national organizations catering to that particular topic, check out their website to see if they have their own online group you can join. Many chat and messaging apps also include social groups that you can browse and join. If you actively use these type of apps, check yours to see if they offer this feature.
Perhaps the easiest way to find a group is to search for one using your favorite social networking platform. On Facebook, for example, entering your topic of interest into the search bar will give a list of any community or groups that may be related to that subject. You can also search for local groups, groups your friends are part of, or get a list of recommended groups based on your past activity. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can also create your own.
Are groups safe?
Anytime you interact with strangers online, you should use caution; however, there is little risk in joining a discussion group, provided you follow some simple rules:
- Never provide personal or confidential information to group members.
- Never give out your address.
- Never send money to anyone you meet online.
- If you decide to meet someone from your group in person, select a public meeting place and bring someone else along with you.
- Most importantly, if your children are part of online groups, closely monitor their interactions.
For more information, see our Stay Safe pages.