Chatroulette: Dangers Parents Need to be Aware Of
If you’re the parent of a teenager, then of course you want to do everything you can to protect your child–especially in today’s world. However, if your teen is like most teens, he or she probably has a smartphone or other handheld device that makes it easy for him or her to browse the web and communicate with others at any time.
And even if your child doesn’t have access to his or her own smartphone, the fact remains that your teen could be in danger just by using the Internet on a family computer. Specifically, extreme social networking websites such as Chatroulette may be exposing your teen to sexual predators. Read on to explore what Chatroulette is, how it works, how it could be putting your child in danger, and what you can do to keep you teen safe and educated about.
What is Chatroulette?
If you’ve never heard of Chatroulette or never fully understood the platform, the good news is that it’s really quite simple. Chatroulette is a social networking site that allows users to be randomly connected with other users across the globe. The entire system is randomized, so users could find themselves speaking with somebody in Japan one minute and somebody in Iceland the next.
Chatroulette users need to have a webcam in order to communicate back and forth with other users, as the entire networking aspect of the site is video-based. Users can also fill out their own profiles, but those are mostly for additional information. The majority of the networking on this site is done via video.
In addition to Chatroulette, there are plenty of Chatroulette alternatives on the Internet as well, so there is really no shortage of websites out there that allow people to connect randomly for video chat sessions.
What Are the Dangers of Using Chatroulette?
Based on the nature of the social media site Chatroulette.com, it’s pretty clear that this kind of platform could prove problematic for some users. Specifically, teens are constantly at risk when they use this site. There are no filters in terms of what can be allowed on video and what isn’t allowed, so it’s very common for users to be matched up with other users who are there for video chat sex or other pornographic reasons. Furthermore, Chat Roulette is often known as “gay Chatroulette” because of the high numbers of gay men who use the site to find cyber sex partners.
Therefore, even if your teen is simply interested in meeting other people from around the globe and having some innocent, one-on-one conversations with these people, there’s no way of avoiding the possibility that the person your child is matched up with is in it for all the wrong reasons. In fact, it’s quite common to get paired up with people who are completely nude on camera or who will try to talk others into getting nude and performing sexual acts on camera. These people often do not care if they’re talking to a teenager, either.
Aside from the dangers of Chatroulette porn, the site is also among one of the most dangerous sites on the Internet for teens because of the large number of sexual predators on the site. For teens who don’t know any better, even a seemingly polite adult could be trying to gather personal information about the teen in order to find and abduct them. For instance, even if a teen is simply on camera while wearing a shirt representing their high school’s football team, this could be enough information for a potential predator to find out where the teen goes to school and how to find him/her.
Finally, if your teen does engage in adult Chatroulette activities, such as getting naked on camera, there is always a chance that the person on the other end is recording the video chat and will have a permanent record of it. If this were to get posted elsewhere on the Internet, your teen’s reputation could be ruined forever. After all, once something is shared on the Web and/or saved by another person, it’s never going to go away for good. As a result of one mistake made on Chatroulette, your teen could find him or herself a victim of cyber bullying, especially once other people from your teen’s school find out about the video or see it.
How to Protect Your Teen
Overall, the best way to prevent your child from becoming endangered by Chatroulette or even sites like Chatroulette is to ensure that your teen doesn’t use these sites in the first place. There are many ways to go about doing this, but the best way is to put a firewall in place on your family computer. When you set up a firewall, you can customize your settings so that specific websites will not load on your computer. By adding Chatroulette to this list of forbidden websites, you can at least enjoy the peace of mind in knowing your teen isn’t using your faily family computer to video chat with strangers.
Unfortunately, if your child has a smartphone, then a firewall on your family computer may simply not be enough to keep him or her from using Chatroulette and putting him or herself at risk. For example, there is a Chatroulette iPhone app that’s available for free, so if your teen has an iPhone, he or she may already be using its built-in camera as a way of video chatting with strangers over the Internet.
Even if your teen doesn’t have an iPhone, there are also Chatroulette apps for other platforms, such as Android and even Windows. Therefore, you may want to speak to your child about the dangers of using Chatroulette and forbid your teen from having the app on his or her phone.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your teen won’t use Chatroulette. He or she could very well be using the site while at a friend’s house where adult supervision isn’t as much of a focus. This is why it’s also a good idea to get to know the parents of your teen’s friends; this way, you can speak to them about these issues and ensure that you’re on the same page.
Finally, even if your teen has no way of accessing Chatroulette, he or she may still find ways to access a Chatroulette alternative, of which there are many on the Web. This is why it’s so vital to sit down with your child and explain that using these sites is unacceptable at his or her age. Furthermore, you should explain why this is the case, as it may not be readily apparent to your teen why you don’t want him or her using such social networking sites. Be sure to explain the dangers that come with using such sites during this conversation.
Has Your Teen Been Using Chatroulette?
There are a couple of ways to go about finding out whether your teen has been using Chatroulette. First and foremost, ask your teen. He or she may be open with your about using the site, especially if your teen has been using it for legitimate reasons, such as a means to meet new people. If this is the case, be sure to speak with your child about the dangers and how to react to potentially dangerous people on Chatroulette. For instance, your teen should know:
- how to report suspicious people or predators on the website
- how to identify a potential predator on Chatroulette
- how to leave a chat conversation on the site and block users
- the importance of telling an adult if such a situation occurs
Of course, the above should only apply to you if you’re okay with the idea of your teen using the site for the right purposes. Unfortunately, when you allow your teen to use the site, you are pretty much guaranteeing that your child will end up in a situation where he or she comes face to face with a predator.
Even if your child doesn’t readily admit to using the website, there are still some other steps you can take to find out whether or not he or she is using Chatroulette. For starters, browsing your computer’s search history can be a great way to find out if anybody has been accessing the site from that computer. Most browsers these days store such search history in the “settings” or “history” tab, so be sure to check it out and be on the lookout for any Chatroulette links.
Of course, search history can be disabled, so if your teen is pretty savvy when it comes to technology, then there’s a good chance that he or she has disabled search history saving and has been using the site anyway.
If your teen has a smartphone, you can also look to see if he or she has the Chatroulette app on his or her phone. If so, then you can pretty much be guaranteed that your teen is using the site. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your teen is using it for pornographic purposes, but given the reputation that Chatroutlette has for these kinds of actions, it’s wise to have a serious conversation with your child and to ask him or her why the site is being used.
Finally, you may be able to find out if your teen is using Chatroulette by searching for him or her on the site itself. This may require you to create your own account, but from there, you may be able to find your teenager’s account by name, username, or e-mail address. And if you do find your teen’s account, you may also be able to find out more about the nature of the account by browsing his or her public profile. This can help you to get a better idea as to whether your teen is using the site for the genuine purpose of meeting new people or something worse.
No matter what, if your teen is using Chatroulette, you have a responsibility as a parent to ensure that he or she is using the site properly. Sit down and talk with your child about the dangers of video chatting in a sexual manner. After all, it just takes one bad person to save the video and share it with the world. From there, it’ll never go away and the video could haunt your child for the rest of his or her life.
Dealing with Cyber Bullying
If your teen has already become a victim of a Chatroulette user, he or she may be experiencing cyber bullying as a result. Since most schools these days have a zero-tolerance policy in place when it comes to cyber bullying, it’s important that you consult with the school principal with evidence of the bullying (screenshots, e-mails, etc) so that the situation can be handled appropriately.
In the meantime, you may also want to contact the website’s support team to see if there is anything they can do to remove videos of your teen from the Web. In some cases (especially if your teen is a minor), there may be a legal obligation to do so.
Hopefully, if your teen has made the mistake of doing inappropriate things on Chatroulette, this is something that he or she will learn from in the future. After all, these kinds of social networking sites don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon, so it’s important for teens to be aware of how these sites operate and how they could be putting themselves at risk by using them.
Overall, the original concept of Chatroulette may have been a good one. Unfortunately, the site has evolved into a dangerous place for teens over time, so it’s important for parents to be aware of this site and ones like it. From there, they can take the necessary steps to educate their children on the dangers and protect their teens from a problem that will follow them for the rest of their lives.