Monday, March 8, 2010

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Consumer Alert: Parents Should Keep Children Away From new Video Chat Web Site Chatroulette.com

An increasingly popular Web site poses a threat to Texas children by giving users – including dangerous sex offenders – an opportunity to conduct live video chats with randomly selected participants.

Armed with only a Web camera and Internet access, www.chatroulette.com users are paired with a random stranger for a video chat. Neither a login nor registration is required before young users can be face-to-face with a total stranger. Worse, users who simply click “next” are shuffled to a new video chat partner.

An undercover investigation by the Cyber Crimes Unit revealed startling results. Nearly half of the randomly selected users encountered by Cyber Crimes investigators immediately exposed themselves and conducted sexually explicit acts on camera.

In light of the serious threat that children will be exposed to graphic sexual conduct, Texas parents should prohibit their children from accessing www.chatroulette.com. Although site users are supposed to be at least 16 years old, the rule is not clearly enforced – which means parents’ preventative role is particularly important.

Attorney General Abbott reminds parents to closely monitor their children’s Internet activities by using the following safety tips:

• Place the computer in a public room at home so that parents can monitor their children’s Internet use. Do not allow computers in a child’s bedroom or permit the use of Web cameras.
• Make sure children know never to agree to a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet online and never to divulge personal information to an Internet stranger.
• Stay informed. Surf the Internet with children or at least talk to them about the Web sites they are visiting.
• Establish ground rules for children’s Internet usage, including the hours they may surf and the kinds of Web sites they may visit. Post the rules near the computer.