The Dangers of Chatroulette for Kids
What is Chatroulette?
Chatroulette is the newest Internet sensation and the brainchild of a 17-year-old student from Moscow, Russia, who was tired of chatting with his same old friends. This webcam-based social networking site basically matches you up randomly with strangers from around the world in a one-on-one chat. They can see you and you can see them through their web cams.
There is no sign up cost or even a log in user name to use this service. It is free to anyone with a web cam. On any typical night, the site has about 20,000 users ranging in age, gender and location. If you are matched with someone you don’t like, think is boring or find completely inappropriate, you can just be matched with someone new on the click of a “next” button.
Similar to many chat rooms, there are rules about pornographic material and inappropriate content, but it is difficult to police with so many users. Many times, users will find themselves in a chat with someone who just wants to flash their private parts for amusement – it’s no wonder than male users outweigh female users on this site.
Chatroulette is not a dangerous or harmful site, but parents must use caution and educate themselves and their children about these sites that could pose a danger if used inappropriately.
The Dangers of Chatroulette for Kids
While this site may seem fun and is a current web phenomenon, there are some dangers for kids if they participate unsupervised:
Inappropriate Content. The most obvious danger for kids would be the inappropriate content. There is nothing really that penalizes users for doing obscene things in their chat room, especially because they can’t get kicked off or banned – there is no sign up. The fact that you cannot filter whom you might see creates a danger for kids because they might end up chatting with someone older, someone who is looking specifically to influence young children. They can see them clearly on the web cam and might try to get them to say or do things that are inappropriate just for fun.
Ability to Record Chats & Video. In this day and age, most everything you do on the Internet can be recorded and used in perpetuity for all to see and Chatroulette is no different. Texts and chats can be recorded and put up on other Internet sites – YouTube is a popular place for funny Chatroulette videos, but it isn’t so funny if your child gets caught doing something stupid or obscene and they are all of the sudden Internet stars.
Rejection. Some kids might not understand the process of being “nexted” or rejected by the person on the other side of the chat, especially teenagers who are self conscious about their looks. Even if it is someone from across the globe, teenagers and younger kids can still wrap up their self-identity in other people and you don’t want them to get self-conscious from some silly Internet chat.
Keeping Your Kids Safe on the Internet
Chatroulette is just one example of a fun, interesting website that can get out of control if people with the wrong intentions get on and use it. So, it is important to make children – and parents! – aware that this is not the only site out there that they need to be careful using.
Many times, keeping your kids safe on the Internet is as simple as having a conversation with them about the dangers of using chat rooms and meeting people over the Internet. Making sure they understand never to give away any personal information about themselves or be persuaded to do things they don’t want to do.
Assure them that if they do get into some type of inappropriate situation, they can always come talk to you about it and you won’t get (too) mad about where they have been looking on the Internet. By starting this line of open communication when your children are young, it will hopefully be easier to keep them away from inappropriate and/or pornographic sites when they get older and have more freedom on the computer.
If your children are younger, here are a few things that are easy to do that could help curtail any inappropriate Internet behavior:
1. Install a monitoring program on your computer that shows you where your children have been going on the Internet. You can also go as far as installing a blocking program that allows you to cut out sites all together that you deem inappropriate.
2. Put the computer screen somewhere where it is in plain view so if you are in the room or even if you are around in the house, they feel less comfortable going to sites they know they shouldn’t be going to.
3. Keep the Internet history and logs available, and tell your children that they are not allowed to erase them.
These easy steps can really make a difference, especially having an open discussion with your children about what can potentially happen when they are faced with these types of situations. Having consequences in place if the rules are broken is also a good motivator to make sure what you are saying is not going in one ear and out the other.
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