More on ChatRoulette
Hopefully, by now that you have all digested the initial announcement of the appearance of the new video chat stranger danger. Let's take a step or two back and put this in perspective.
Many times in the past, I've said that for the most part, kids are safe and want to be safe. Indeed, the research backs up my contention. However, the research also points out that there is a small part of the teen population that is at risk. These are the same kids who would be at risk even if the Internet didn't exist.
Beth Martin of Everest Middle School had a talk with her 16 year-old daughter and her friend. She said, "They didn't seem fazed by it. They told me that fact that I was shocked showed how naive I was about the web. Their response was that kids should be smart enough to know not to do that. Wow! That shocked me too. I think they are right about a lot of kids but I think kids on the fringe would try this."
The fact is that when sites like this come along, not only the kids on the fringe, but many mainstream kids will check it out. Curiosity is natural. For most, their curiosity will be quenched and it will quickly fade. However, it is still important to talk to kids about it, but do so by recognizing that most are safe. We have to begin to build a culture based on trust that treats kid as intelligent beings. We have to get them to help each other and held us help the few who might be in danger.
Let them know you realize that only a small group of individuals will be endangered by this kind of site and that THEY know who these kids are. They are the ones in the best position to help. Ask them to be alert to friends who might be hurt by using sites like this. Ask them to help their friends avoid trouble. Ask them to contact a trusted adult if they think someone might be endangering themselves.
It may or may not be effective, but it WILL start building a community of trust and perhaps it will result in at at least one tragedy being avoided. Let's treat our teens as online partners, not naive sheep.
Incidentally, when I went online to check this out. This is what the people on the other end saw. My web camera software does face movement tracking and allows me to overlay (wear) hats, wigs, masks, and distort my face numerous ways.
When kids saw this, one of three things happened.
1) They clicked off immediately
2) They called me a pedophile
3) They gave me a thumbs up.