Q: I've heard some talk about a site called
ChatRoulette. What is it?
A: ChatRoulette is a video
chat program that allows users with a Web cam to randomly connect
and video chat with a steady stream of chatters all over the world.
Participants using a Web cam can see a video of a person waiting to
chat on the screen and either party can decide to stay and chat or
hit the next button and move on to another user.
This is not a place for children. This chat program allows users
to connect with complete strangers around the world through video
and text chatting. The site's content is not filtered, censored or
closely moderated and with millions of users connecting, instantly
monitoring interactions that sometimes last just a few seconds
between chatters is almost impossible. The site relies on user
reports to identify and report inappropriate behavior, however it
is not clear how those reported offenses are dealt with.
Parents should also know:
Age suggested, but not verified. While the site states that
users must be 16 to participate, there is no age verification,
profile page or even an acceptable use agreement for participants.
Simply clicking the "Allow" button gets the process going.
Lots of sex. In several test visits, about 50 percent of the
chatters I saw positioned the camera on their groin, were partially
naked or completely nude. Some ChatRoulette users are just roaming
out of curiosity, however, many others are exposing themselves and
there is a significant amount of nudity, suggestive poses and
sexual activity occurring on the site.
Others are out there. Parents should also be aware that this is
not the only video chat program out there. ChatHopper is
one of several other instant video chat programs and many
ChatRoulette copycats have started to pop up.
Filters can help. Parents can use filters to block chat rooms
and known offensive sites-a free basic filter can be installed at
Parents can also use built-in parental control software to block
the sites on their operating system and browser-find out how to
configure yours by visiting eHow.com.
Blocking isn't enough. Filtering this site and others that may
be offensive is a good idea, but not enough to keep kids from being
exposed. As kids grow, access to unfiltered content on computers
outside your home is inevitable and children need to develop good
judgment when it comes to participating online. The best chance at
helping your child avoid this and other potentially offensive sites
is to talk about it, set boundaries in your home and continue the
conversation on a regular basis.
Sharon Cindrich is a mother of two tech-savvy kids from Virginia Beach. Learn more at sharoncindrich.com.
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