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WebcamsWebcams

A webcam is a video camera connected to a computer. The camera may be an attachment or already installed in the computer. Webcam users can talk to each other through live streaming video or record videos to post on video-sharing sites, making webcams very useful tools for communication and for self-expression. Unfortunately, the extra exposure may also put children at greater risk of online victimization. If you decide to allow webcam use in your home, be aware of the risks so you can help your children use it more safely.

Creating Content

Many children use their webcams to create videos which they post to video-sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo. In these videos, children sing, dance, tell stories, share opinions, and show off other talents. While many are meant innocently, it is important that you talk to your children about what content you consider appropriate for posting online. For example, you may not want your children singing certain songs or using certain words. Make sure to review all videos before they are posted, and remind your children that their videos may be seen by a large audience. The videos may also be around for a long time; actions that seemed funny at age 14 may be embarrassing when they are adults applying for jobs.

Chatting Via Webcam

Video-streaming sites like Justin.tv or Skype can be a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. With a webcam, users can connect with each other and engage in real-time, live video chats. Many people use these services to stay in touch with family members and friends. Some video chat services allow the content to be recorded, so it’s important to teach children to be mindful of what they say and do while chatting via webcam. Encourage them to report any inappropriate actions by other webcam users to you or the website immediately.

Manipulation by Predators

Some predators try to take advantage of webcams’ capabilities in order to manipulate children. They may even send children webcams during the grooming process. While children may view the webcams simply as gifts, predators often use them to exploit children. They may start by making small, seemingly harmless suggestions, such as removing a shirt. If children comply, the suggestions may escalate to full nudity and sexual acts. If children stop cooperating, some predators will threaten to expose recordings they’ve made of the children’s previous actions in order to force them into complying.

Tips

Help children use webcams safely

Teach children to think carefully before revealing themselves on video because it is impossible to predict how those videos might be used to embarrass or exploit them. Talk to your children about reporting any uncomfortable situation and reassure them that they are not helpless.

  • Keep the computer and webcam in a public area of your house and strictly supervise your child’s usage.
  • Discuss what information is allowed and not allowed to be shared online.
  • Talk about appropriate and inappropriate uses of a webcam.
  • Start a dialogue about the possible consequences of sharing too much personal information or displaying inappropriate behavior on a webcam.
  • Create a plan of action if someone makes an inappropriate solicitation.
  • Emphasize the importance of telling you or another trusted adult if anything happens to make them feel scared or uncomfortable.

Discussion Starters

Start a discussion with your child
  • Do you chat with any of your friends through webcam?
  • Can I see the videos that you have made?
  • Has anyone ever asked you to do anything inappropriate on your webcam? What would you do in this situation?
  • Are you aware that anything you do on your webcam can be saved and sent to anyone?
  • How do you think the images or videos you post online can be used to hurt you?