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In our case we struggled with the problem: How can a researcher be sure to analyse the communication of children and adolescents and not the chat communication of adults who pretend to be under 18? So far, most analyses of chat communication come from log-files of college students or the researchers themselves (e.g.

DANET, RUEDENBERG, GURION & ROSENBAUM-TAMARI 1998; RUNKEHL, SCHLOBINSKI & SIEVER 1999).

The pilot study provided a summary of the Internet usage of 10- to 17-year-old children and adolescents of Berlin through means of explorative interviews, participating observation and a questionnaire survey.

The focus of the research project is on chatting in the Internet, but a detailed overview of the common use of the Internet services by the pilot study will be important for the analysis of the everyday practice of chatting in order to evaluate it in its context of the regular use of the Internet. Data Collection The study of the chat communication started its empirical phase in spring and the process of data collection will end in autumn of 2000.

Many additional elements—such as the time stamp of each turn—are included within the log-file and are very helpful for the analysis.

[] A co-operation was established with the Berlin Internetcafé "Netti", where adolescents can chat in the IRC as well using other Internet services.

Based on the findings of our pilot study we knew that chat channels of the IRC were used by adolescents from several Berlin districts.

The client programs of the IRC (which have to be installed on the users' computers before entering the chat) have the advantage over other chat programs in that they log the chat communication very easily and in detail.

Although the project was widely promoted, unfortunately not many children and adolescents were interested in participating.Our findings of the pilot study had to be revised due to the fact that chatting in the IRC was a short trend among the young people in the summer and autumn of 1999.The trend soon waned and was replaced by the still growing number of webchats (e.g.The anonymity in the Internet in relation to the age restriction of the research project to chatters between 10 and 17 years of age was one of the aspects which caused problems in collecting the data.Another problem lay in the technical conditions of the chat systems themselves.