IMs Being Monitored At Home, Work

The use of Instant messages, or IMs, is increasing. Businesses have found they improve productivity and save money. At home, it's used by kids to stay in touch with each other.

One Long Island family found that what is sent in an instant can lead to instant trouble.

"Thirteen-year-old boys asking my daughter if she would like to have a drink. I found friends of hers telling her how they would go into gay men's chat rooms and trying to get gay men to say inappropriate things to them," Jeffrey Supinsky, who monitors his daughter instant messaging, told The Early Show correspondent Susan McGinnis. "All of this over instant messaging."

Supinsky has monitored his three children's computer use for three years and said the first time he saw a conversation, he was shocked. Supinsky is a consultant for SearchHelp, a program that monitors the computers in his home. It sends him an e-mail alert when a conversation deemed inappropriate is taking place and lets him stop it immediately. He can even watch what the kids are doing in real-time.

"One of the boys asked her just this weekend, 'Do you want to come over? My parents are away. Would you drink?' And I immediately spoke to her about it," he said. "Within a second she said, 'nope.' "

Jordan Supinsky wasn't pleased when she learned her father was monitoring her instant messaging, but said she got over it. She now thinks twice about what she sends.

Jeffrey Supinsky doesn't think he's invading anyone's privacy. He believes he's protecting his children. He says what his generation found at the local park or on the streets just doesn't compare to what his kids might find on the information super highway.

"When you're on the Internet, you could go so many different places and interact with so many more different people than you could with leaving the house," Supinsky said. "But parents never ask that question because they think they're in their house they're safe. They're really not."

Businesses also monitor instant messaging.

"Corporations can indeed read your instant messages and take appropriate action if they find that you are doing something inappropriate with that instant message," said Bill Maguire, Virgin America's CIO.

At Virgin America, Maguire is mostly concerned with keeping company secrets. IMs are monitored by a piece of hardware in the company's data center. Maguire doesn't mind a little idle chatter and no one has been fired because of instant messaging at Virgin, but Maguire has seen it happen elsewhere.

"In one particular case, we had somebody connect to inappropriate sites that were obtaining pornographic information," he said.

More companies will take heed from Congressman Mark Foley's experience. Foley was caught sending inappropriate instant messages to male teenage congressional pages and resigned amid scandal. The ePolicy Institute says less than 10 percent of companies now monitor instant messages, but that's changing as instant messaging takes off.

Each day last year, about 12 billion messages were sent.

"It's huge," said Lance Ulanoff, an editor at PC Magazine. "Just think about how much money you save if you have offices in the U.S. and Paris, and instead of picking up the phone, you're just doing quick messages back and forth."

Add in the number of children using IMs and it's easy to see how important it is to learn what disappears in an instant can have a lasting effect.

Keep tabs on IMs:

Learn more about SearchHelp here.

Visit the ePolicy Institute online.

Visit Akonix here.