Child Safety: Chat Roulette is NOT for Kids!
My brother shared a site called ChatRoulette on Facebook, and I checked it out. It's a new website that connects you face-to-face, via webcam, to random people all over the world. It's voyeurism at its best—live, countless, free webcams, just a click away. And it's growing, rapidly. In December there were 300 users, mostly friends of the 17-year-old high school student in Moscow who created it. Last night? 37,000 were logged in. At once.
Strangers stare at you for a moment, deciding if they want to click next, to find someone more appealing than you, or invest a minute or two of their precious time on you. It's a total flashback to junior high school—will the cool kids accept you? Will you be met with laughter and mocking or acceptance? Will someone take the time to get to know you, or judge you in half a second and walk away? More often than not, it's the latter.
During my few minutes of exploration, I came across a group of sorority-looking girls who scoffed at the shlumpy looking mom on the other end of the computer. Pre-partiers drinking and dressed to the nines. Groups of teenage boys with only one hand visible and hopeful looks on their faces. An older man who I swear I saw on America's Most Wanted a decade ago. More than a few body parts and many Mardi Gras type requests as well. But by far, the most disturbing were the children ... yes, children ... I saw.
Intriguing as this site may be, as a parent, I am disgusted. I am horrified. It's not about building relationships, like we do here. It's building disaster. How long before someone runs into the prick who blew him off on the site and retaliates? Or the person he shared too intimate details with? How easy it would be to record all of the encounters and post them for the world to see. Sex and violence will reign free as the site continues to grow. And the kids? I shudder to think of the connections they could be making. Can you imagine what they could stumble across?
If you have kids who have access to computers, talk to them about child safety on the Internet. If they haven't discovered the site, their friends may have, and we all know how quickly things spread in this virtual world of ours. And this one? Is nothing but trouble.
Is there a current kid trend that's making you nervous?