I'm not a parent and not a teacher yet (In college now) but in my opinion I feel like introducing formal emailing before chatting would be more beneficial. Emailing is more formal, so the student can create good habits before they begin chatting, which could create more informal habits.
From my experience, I reckon kids will catch the emailing bit first and then you can relax the tone to teach them more informal ways of communicating such as chatting. it's easier when they have the metalanguage and "schemata" of what are the parts of a message to then eliminate some when messaging in an informal way.
How about reading in online forums as a first step?
The ePals Student Forums provide a great way for students to read questions and comments from other students and see how online, digital dialog differs from face-to-face dialog. (Students tend to write easy sentences too!) It's free to participate in the Forums. ePals staff moderate all student posts before they are public, so there's no inappropriate language.
Look at the entries in various categories such as sports, music, homework help, and others: http://bit.ly/StForum
Only students can write questions and responses here, and only if their teacher has given them a free ePals SchoolMail account (or SchoolMail365, which is not a free product).
You'll see answers to questions from children around the world. What is your favorite pet? What is your favorite sport? to more difficult questions such as: Are there homeless people where you live?
Students in grade 1-2 are capable of having their own email accounts, with teacher supervision. You can sign up for free ePals SchoolMail accounts, with ability to monitor incoming and outgoing emails and also a "problem word" filter.
Your district, KCK, has already approved ePals SchoolMail, and it's in many schools in your district now.
Go to http://www.epals.com and click on the "Join" button to join yourself, or use the link to District or School Bulk Registration to find out how to easily get accounts for all the students in your school. Or ask Julie Leach in the district tech office if you can be part of the pilot she is running now!
ePals has TRUSTe certification of child privacy.
Please join an ePals 101 webinar to learn more about how to use this with students in the curriculum for project-based learning and literacy activities. Sign up: http://epals.101.sgizmo.com
Realize that before grade 3, it's tough for kids to have the eye-hand coordination and knowledge of the keyboard to do well in a chat room where others may respond more quickly than they do.
(I taught at J.C. Harmon High School many years ago; go KCK!)
Thanks for your input! I do already use emailing and forums with grades 3-5 through ePals, with help from Julie. I love ePals because of the monitoring and control I have (And a side note...I love the projects available too!). I never thought about your point of younger students not having the eye-hand coordination to do well in a chat room. It does make sense. How about messaging in a educational school network site like LearningSpace or Edmodo with younger students? Does anyone have recommendations about this? Should emailing still be taught first before messaging? I would love to discuss this further!
By the way, great to talk with someone from KCK!