Attention Parents – Social Networking At Its Worst


I was recently made aware of a relatively new website that causes me some concern. The website’s name is ChatRoulette.com.

I’m especially concerned for parents of younger children, t-weens and teens who have un-tethered or un-limited internet access, free of parental monitoring.

Does your child have a computer or a laptop with a working webcam? If so, you might be surprised at how easy it is for them to become involved in some “very un-savory” web browsing activities.

This latest “social networking” entry is Chat Roulette – essentially a portal for people of “any” age to meet, chat and share with other webcam enabled computer users. After spending a little time “playing roulette” I’ve found that there are many socially unfit individuals sharing way too much “personal information” via their webcam. Remember, a web cam shows a live feed of who or what is sitting in front of it. I hope you can see where I going with this. By the way – there were 24,834 users online when I “played the game” in the early afternoon on a week day. I’m sure the user count increases dramatically in the evening. More users = potentially more wacko’s!!!

With Chatroulette there’s absolutely nothing stopping children from accessing the site or any of the “live content” being shared. Here’s what their “log in” page states as well as what, I assume, they consider terms of use:

Welcome to the world of Chatroulette!
Click “Play” to start the game.

Tips:
• You can also access this site by typing chatrt.com
• If you are having a bad video connection, enable UDP in firewall or turn your firewall off. 
Most likely you don’t need to do this step, as everything should be working well by default.

• If you don’t want to see the “allow/deny webcam” window every time you are connected:
1. Right-click anywhere and select “Settings”.
2. In the second tab, check “Remember” to remember your choice.

Terms of Service:
• You have to be at least 16 years old to use our service
• Chatroulette does not tolerate broadcasting obscene, offending, pornographic material and and we will have to block users who violate these rules from using our service
• Please use “Report inappropriate video” link to notify us about inappropriate content and we will take necessary steps

There’s no signup process, no credit card info, no verification that a user is actually over 16 and no real information or warning to anyone as to what they might encounter by “playing the game”. Once you click “Play” you’re instantly connected to and through thousands of randomly selected users sitting in front of their webcams. Some funny, some strange and some that will make you cover or avert your eyes – not the kinds of images you want younger kids “exposed” too.

Now, it’s surprising to me that this service is hosted on Google’s servers. Perhaps they aren’t aware of how potentially dangerous this site could be or maybe their “testing the waters” for a new service themselves – perhaps Internet Speed Dating or something like it. Whatever the pretense, it doesn’t excuse the ease of access to minor children.

 I’ve included the sites DNS information below in case some tech savvy parents would like to block access to ChatRoulette in their router. This would be a good first step and will keep most kids from accidentally accessing this service but if your kids are even a little savvy, they’ll soon find a way around your parental blocks. If folks need a reliable, secure solution to protect their children from these types of sites and services, feel free to contact my technical support team for additional options. As parents, we need all the help we can get.

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