Not such harmless fun for Icey Queen and MollsOnHolls

"Gareth Gates is buff!" says Icey Queen, as she relaxes by the pool in the Habbo Hotel. MollsOnHolls orders a Coke, before lying back on a sunlounger next to Icey Queen.

For Vannessa Lakeman (chatroom moniker: Lady Kiss) and Tara Swain (aka Icey Queen), both 12, internet chatrooms are harmless fun. They are aware of the current debate over chatroom safety and the danger of paedophiles using the internet to meet them - but they are convinced it will never happen to them. They go through a checklist of the dos and don'ts. Never give out an address. Never give a phone number. And leave the chatroom if you don't like the tone of a conversation.

"I use it nearly every day when I get home from school," says Tara, a pupil at George Green's School on the Isle of Dogs, London. "I'm not going to meet up with people so my parents are OK. They trust me."

Her schoolfriend, Vannessa, agrees that chatrooms are safe. "You can just leave if people suggest meeting."

Their favourite chatroom, the Habbo Hotel, is a virtual club where children make up characters, meet and talk to other guests. At its peak, over 6,000 people are "checked in".

Kamil Davulcuoglu, 12, a fellow pupil at George Green's School, is another fan. "You can talk to the people you know. And you can play games on there as well." Microsoft's move to close its chatrooms is questioned by all three.Vannessa says: "It's not just paedophiles who use chatrooms. It's other people too."

The outside world is more dangerous, they argue. "If you're out, you can be taken," says Tara.

"It's safe in the chatroom," insists Vannessa, "and my mum sometimes sits next to me. As long as I don't meet up with them, I'm fine."

Back in the Habbo Hotel, the debate rages over whether Gareth Gates really is "buff". MollsOnHolls prefers Justin Timberlake.

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