Ok, this might seem to be a really silly question.
My 13 yo DS has had an AIM acct. for a couple of years now--he got started early cause he had an older sister (she's now 19) and stepS. I have never monitored what he was writing because I wouldn't sit there & listen in while he talked on the phone either. Since the computer is downstairs in my office, I could look if I wanted to. Sometimes he could have 3 IMs going at the same time.
W/ both him & my DD, we did have talks about the dangers of IMing and internet use in general, esp. how strangers could pretend to be kids when they are not. I think my kids are pretty sophisticated and see the news and not that naive. The rule always was that they could only IM to people they already knew in real life--not even the friend of a friend. I could go through his buddy list and he could tell me everyone on there. They were just not interested in doing anything else except talking to their friends.
I suppose if she has email, she could always give out her email address to people too so if you haven't had that talk about beware of strangers, it would be a good time to do it.
My dd and ds
That's one of the problems we've had with this online game- Maplestory. The kids can get so involved in that game.
Of course you have to know what is best for your own child and there are some kids who will get too distracted or too obsessed w/ the computer, video games, etc. but my DD, who IMed while she did her hw all the time during high school (and of course, that did make it take longer) still graduated in the top 10% of her class and made National Honor Society and my son has always had straight A's. Some kids can do their hw while the TV is on for background noise and others can do it only in silence.
Are you from Andover, MA? I live in Weymouth.
Everything you said is true, but I still choose to limit the distractions.