Lesson #5 Webcams and Online Safety

Technology is an amazing thing. Computers these days can do everything but serve you coffee. With so many new bells and whistles, computers and the Internet have become hunting grounds for child predators. They attempt to reach your child through your computer and they can use webcams to do it.

It’s as if The Jetsons are alive and living in the 21st century. You can actually talk to someone through your computer and see them face to face. Using webcams, video equipment and microphones, kids can project their image across cyberspace.

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It’s new technology so kids are curious and excited. YouTube is a site devoted to video networking. Kids can upload videos of themselves doing everything from skateboarding to fixing their favorite milkshake. Once these videos are uploaded, people anywhere can see them.

Webcams aren’t all bad are they?

Webcams are useful for many reasons. First, families can stay in touch. This is especially nice for service men and women to see their families or grandparents to keep in touch with their grandkids who live miles away. A webcam lets you see the person in real time.

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Secondly, webcams can be used for instructional videos, school projects and classes that are interactive. It’s like being there without being there.

What are the drawbacks?

With each new technological development there comes someone who wants to exploit it for its nefarious uses. Child predators use webcams to satisfy their sexual urges. Getting to your child with messages in chat rooms is dangerous enough, but with a webcam they can actually see them. It is as scary as it sounds.

If you’ve ever seen someone use a webcam online, they can post their webcam address and perform real time video sessions. Some people do it on their social site pages for friends, but the feed can be picked up by others and broadcast all over the world. Online predators can tap into these feeds and contact your child.

The relationship begins innocently. They talk to your child and might ask them to do things on camera like wearing a certain outfit or saying certain words. Over time the acts will get more explicit and the person may even offer money or gifts for the privilege of looking at your child.

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What can a parent do?

Know your child and set up rules for using webcams. If your computer has a webcam keep it in the common area of the house. There is no need for webcams in a child’s bedroom.

Secondly, teach your kids not to post anything they wouldn’t want to be seen by a million others. It might seem like fun for your child to dance around in their nightgown to have fun with some girlfriends, but on the Internet that same footage could send the wrong message. Anyone your child sends the video to can post it as long as they have the link.

Our children don’t always make the right decisions so it is up to us to guide them in the right direction. Webcams might be fun for family and friends but they can be a dangerous avenue for sexual predators if used irresponsibly.


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