- Internet & the Web
What Is Chatroulette & Is It Safe For Our Children?
Do you believe Chatroulette is okay for children?
Chatroulette is the fastest rising search on Google, and at first I thought it was a casino site. After searching it for myself, I soon discovered it is actually a video chat site which is quickly becoming a Internet sensation, along with the likes of YouTube and Facebook.
So what's it all about and why has it become so popular?
Welcome to the world of Chatroulette
Chatroulette is a chat based website that allows people from all over the world to interact with each other through web-cam based chat.
The website was created by 17yr old Andrey Ternovskiy, after chatting to his friends through video link on skype.
He then went on to plan the Chatroulette website in just under three days.
When the site launched in November 2009 it was receiving only five hundred visitors per day, but just four weeks later the site was receiving 50,000 visitors per day.
The media soon caught on to the new Internet craze, and Chatroulette was featured in the New York Times and The New Yorker. It also featured on TV programmes from Good Morning America to South Park.
By march 2010 there were 35,000 users at any one time on the fast growing site, and an estimated 1.5 million users. Andrey was running the site from his bedroom assisted by four programmers, and he supports his site by advertising links to a online dating site.
How does it work?
Chatroulette uses Adobe flash in order to display videos, and access the users Web-Cam.
It allows almost all video and audio streams, to travel directly through the users computers without using server Bandwidth. There are certain routers that will not allow UDP traffic to flow between them, in which case RTMP is needed.
When users join the chat they can see two boxes on the screen, the bottom box is a video of themselves, and the top box is a video of the user they have been randomly linked to via web-cam.
The user is free to leave the current chat at anytime by pressing the Chatroulette next button, and can then move onto a new person. This is what is known as being 'Nexted'.
Beside the users face there is a chat box so you can chat to each other while seeing each others reactions.
Many Celebrities such as Justin Beiber and Paris Hilton are now using the Chatroulette site, and YouTube has been overwhelmed with videos of pranks and funny moments on the site.
However it became notorious for nudity, when a survey revealed that one in eight feeds involved R-rated content.
Since this revelation, Chatroulette has encouraged users to be over eighteen years of age, although the actual age limit is sixteen and children as young as eight have still been seen using the site.
If Chatroulette users experience harassment, immoral or pornographic activity then they have the option to report the offending user.
If three users have complained about the same offender within five minutes, then that person is banned for 40 minutes.
Unfortunately users are now using the block button even if the person has done nothing offensive, it can just because they don't fancy the user, or a male user has been paired with another male and would prefer a hot female.
Now for the bad stuff- Parents Beware!!!
Chatroulette like many chat sites on the net has become increasingly popular with teenagers. one particular teenage girl told her Mum about this cool new site herself and her friends were using, so as a concerned Mum she decided to check it out and make sure it was suitable for her daughter. Unfortunately what she found deeply concerned her.
The Mum enters the site and is immediately paired with a topless man, he says "hi where are you from?" and she replies.
After only a few seconds he messages her "Can you remove you're top so I can see you're breasts?" she instantly clicked 'Next' and was put through to the next user.
The site is easily accessible, all you need is a computer and a web-cam. You do not have to register or sign in so there is no way of the site keeping track of who there users are, leaving the door wide open for children of any age, and more disturbingly Paedophiles.
Once you are in the site, it immediately starts searching for another user to connect you with. More often than not the camera has been angled so you cant see their face, or worse still the camera is angled towards their genitals.
The Mum that investigated the site said, most of the men she was linked to were naked and asked her if she showed boobs before nexting her when she stated she did not. She estimated that 1 in 5 had the camera pointing to their genitals.
After researching this latest craze, I was left worried that this is the sort of thing that is now attracting our children.
We all hear stories of youngsters being groomed over the Internet, but this site is actively allowing people of any age to interact with our children face to face.
Chatroulette has no real security to protect their more vulnerable users, neither do they require their users to reveal their true identity leaving the site open to Paedophiles and such like.
Even the block button is pointless, because it only bans the offender for up to 40 minutes.
When the offending users time on the naughty step is up, they are free to carry on with their perverted games.
As a parent myself, I would advise all other parents to keep their child away from this site.
In my opinion, it is as seedy as half the people using it!
Chatroulette Update 2013
Since writing my last review two years ago, I decided to see if Chatroulette had made any positive changes.
In 2012, Chatroulette updated their Terms and Conditions. The new terms stated that nudity was no longer allowed on any part of their site.
They have also stated that users must be age 18 plus, and have made it a requirement, that all users now sign up before using their site.
Further more, an Algorithm has been developed to filter out, a significant amount of obscene content. The image recognition algorithm, instantly flags users, that are using the site to broadcast sexual content.
The new filter works by recognising faces as appropriate content, while identifying excessive amounts of bare skin.
A user based sample study on 20,000 users of the site, revealed that the algorithm filtered out almost sixty per cent of the pornographic material, as well as unsuitable adds on the site.
Site owner Ternovskiy said,
"The combination of filter technology and moderation, resulted in the banning of 50,000 inappropriate users daily."
Moderators are now constantly monitoring all webcam feeds, and flagging inappropriate ones on the Chatroulette site.
I am pleased to see that Chatroulette have been working hard, on the safety issues that their site has. As well as making it a requirement for users to sign up.
I know there will still be a lot of minors that lie about their age and continue to use the site anyway, but with more safety measures being put in place, as well as offending Users having their IP addresses banned, it looks like Chatroulette are taking the publics concerns regarding their site seriously.
If you are a parent not wanting your child on Chatroulette, then you can block access to the site on their computers, using the parental control software.