I am writing to you as a mom for advice.
I just found out some friends of my daughter are going onto chatroulette and omegle.
I was not familiar with these sites so I spent a little time looking around.
It is clear that this is not a place for middle school kids to be, even if they only use the TEXT option.
I want to appeal to my daughter on reasons not to use these sites and was hoping you could offer some ideas on links or stories that I could use as examples.
I know this issue is important to you so that is why I am asking for your assistance.
Dear Debbie: Thank you for the question. For anyone who is unfamiliar with these sites, Chatroullette and Omegele are websites that enable people to video chat with a complete stranger. Chatroulette and Omegele are just two of the more popular random video chatting sites.
There are very serious concerns about the use of these sites with children and teens. Chatroulette was created by Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow. He told the New York Times he initially created the site for "fun" and to “connect randomly with global users.” When Andrey created Chatroulette, I doubt that he had the foresight to see that there would be a multitude of adults who are in various stages of undress being paired with children. But that is what’s happening.
Unfortunately, there are many kids and tweens that are regularly logging on to Chatroulette and being exposed to content that is inappropriate and possibly dangerous. It is common for teens and tweens to get together for Chatroulette parties, but it is also getting more common for young kids who are left on their own to log on and interact with strangers. One example is an eight year old boy who is notorious on Chatroulette for being vulgar and asking girls to flash him.
Here is a summary of the dangers of these sites:
1. Your child can be exposed to adults who are nude and looking for a witness for their actions.
2. If your child is convinced to expose herself, it is very likely that it is being recorded. This can later be posted on the internet and identified by your child's friends, teachers or co-workers. There are actually a few posts on the Web titled "How to ruin someone's life" using Chatroulette.
3. Many people on Chatroulette do not care about the feelings of the person on the other end of the chat. Your child may be subjected to insults and slurs. A user can flag another's posts, but that rarely happens. Therefore, your child may come away from a Chatroulette session self- conscious and vulnerable.
In summary, this is absolutely no place for children. However, like I have stated many times, risky behavior does not come from just “bad” kids, but from kids. When helping parents that are concerned about Chatroulette, I must ask the following questions:
1. Does your child have an Internet capable computer in her room? If so, disable the network card or take the computer out. You would most likely not allow your child to go to a party with no adult supervision. The Internet is no different. The biggest parental mistake that I see is that they allow their child to have unrestricted and unsupervised access to the Internet from the privacy of a bedroom.
2. Do you have content filters set up? Nearly all computers, hand-held devices and their browsers have the ability to block content and sites. If you are unsure how to do this, just Google the browser name and parent controls. For example, use the search terms “Parent controls safari” and “blocking websites internet explorer” and you will no doubt find sites that walk you through these procedures step by step.
3. Do you have monitoring software installed on your computer and all hand-held devices? If not, do so, and fast. You will never regret being an overly cautious parent. But you can regret not being cautious enough.
Software I have recommended on my blog, http://www.bsecure.com/, monitors all devices and computers. It can automatically shut off a device at a desired time and email the parent of all places visited on the browser, as well as show texts and pictures sent or received on the computer and hand-held devices.
I hope this post is useful to parents. Please keep the questions coming. I am here to help.
I am a technology leader, professional developer, teacher, parent and proud owner of an IEP. Let's talk about some fabulous learning experiences.