Wednesday, August 21, 2013

5 Things Parents Should Know About ChatRoulette

Advice for Parents from a Teen  

by Vanessa Van Petten

If you are a parent you should have heard about ChatRoulette.  To be honest, when I used to speak to parent groups I often explained that kids do not want to go online and meet strangers. The stranger-danger and predator issue was a bigger problem at the start of the web.
I would explain that kids want to go online mainly for the following reasons:

-To play games
-To chat with friends
-To share pictures with their friends
-To watch funny and entertaining videos
-To do homework.
Therefore, I often would explain this to parents, saying that kids do not want to talk to strangers as much as you do not want them too. Yet, ChatRoulette has changed the game.

What is ChatRoulette?

ChatRoulette was created by a 17 year-old.  It is a service where users can go online and chat and video chat with strangers.  See this picture is how the screen looks.  You can visualize how the chats work with the video.  You can save a user or talk to a random stranger at the click of a mouse.

What do Parents Need to Know About ChatRoulette?

1. Glamorizing Strangers
Now it seems that kids are much more interested in talking to strangers.  ChatRoulette has glamorized a once non-issue topic.
2. Creepy Becomes Funny
Many kids will say that talking to strangers is creepy.  After speaking with some of the kids who are using ChatRoulette the creepy factor has become funny.  When a man (see above) dresses in a cat suit, kids rate this as funny, hilarious even and not creepy or even weird.  That ‘creepy’ feeling is actually quite important for kids online.  It hints at that intuitive feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you, something is wrong here.
3. Cure for Boredom
Kids not only like going on ChatRoulette to meet strangers, but also parents need to be aware that kids also like to think of funny things they can do on ChatRoulette when they are bored.  Kids will spend hours (much like when they are trying to think of a clever YouTube video to be the next hit), trying to come up with funny things to do/wear/say when they meet an exciting stranger.
4. A Group Activity
Many kids like going on ChatRoulette in groups when they have nothing else to do.  They enjoy playing the ChatRoulette game together, discussing strangers that come up and then planning funny things for them to do.
5. How to Block It
Perhaps the most important thing for parents to know about ChatRoulette, besides why kids are using it is how to block it.  This is pretty easy to do:
  • Use Parental Control Software (I love Symantec’s FREE one, it’s amazing!)
  • Use Google Safe Search
  • Block the Site on Your Computer
  • Check the search history for ChatRoulette to see if your child has visited it.
6. Abundant Nudity
1 in out of every 10 people you get are masturbating or naked.  This is never appropriate for kids and teens. One of the girls I recently spoke to said it was the first man she ever saw naked outside of the posters in health class.  I think this is a terrible first (or second or third) exposure to nudity. It is dangerous and perverse.
Most of all, you should talk to your kids about ChatRoulette and how they think it could be dangerous (or fun).  I also highly recommend you spread this to your friends so your kid does not go over to their house and try it out.  Parents have to work together to keep kids online because kids so often go on the web at other people’s houses.
Good Luck!
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