Though parents try to educate their children about Internet safety, then try to keep an eye on what they’re doing — all while their kids are technologically more savvy than them — certain services come along that are simply asking for trouble.
A haven for exhibitionists (and perverts?), services such as ChatRoulette.com offer to hook you up with random strangers on the web, all conducted via webcams.
Stereotypically, many people who use these services are men looking for women, often with ‘interesting’ ideas of what’s acceptable to do in front of a camera.
It’s common for users to request each other to perform sexualised acts — hardly something appropriate, desirable or even legal for your kids to be involved with.
Yet I am aware that a number of teenagers who are quite happily using these services, often with the express intention of getting some kind of ‘shock value’.
Many of these services are, by nature, pretty anonymous. There are no restrictions to signup and security is lax.
It’s unlikely that the services themselves will be regulated, and even if some more legitimate software exists, there’ll always be shadier software lurking. With the way web sites and services become popular these days — spreading virally on social networking services like Facebook — a new one could pop up every day.
Many organisations and children’s groups have spoken out, calling for better security and reporting measures to be implemented — measures such as a ‘panic button’ that can alert the police or other legitimate services if a child has a concern about something they’ve seen or experienced online.
Ultimately, though, the responsibility comes down to the parents or carers to educate their kids, regulate Internet usage in a proactive, not reactive, way, and be around to support their kids if they have bad experiences online.