The use of webcams in modern society, whether used at home or work, has had positive and negative effects on those who have webcams attached to or built into their computers. Children and families may use webcams to communicate with relatives and friends who live or work far away, but law enforcement is more concerned about the dangers of webcams and the harmful effects for children and teenagers who spend time on the internet.
Webcams can be purchased for as little as $20.00, and most tweens and teens who have a computer also want a webcam in order to project live images of themselves on teen chat sites, social networking sites like MySpace, Xanga and Stickam, as well as uploaded videos of themselves on YouTube. According to law enforcement, webcams are the single most dangerous peripheral device to be attached to a computer that is used by children or teens. Why are webcams so dangerous?
If you are like most parents, you would never allow a male to be in your teenage daughter’s bedroom without supervision, but it’s happening on a daily basis while young children and teens are on the internet and using webcams, right under the noses of unsuspecting parents. What’s even worse is that many teens have computers connected to the internet in their bedrooms, and many parents still don’t understand how harmful and dangerous this is. Who is watching your child on webcam?
Elementary schools are teaching kids how to use computers and navigate the internet, and young kids are often more knowledgeable about technology and computers than their parents, and these kids are often able to find ways to circumvent and override parental controls and passwords that have been set to protect children while online.
Webcams pose a serious risk to children because it allows an open window into the activities and lives (and bedrooms) of children and teens, and sexual predators are using this technology to their own perverted advantage to target and sexually abuse innocent children. There is also a very dangerous webcam-specific virus or worm called W32/Rbot-GR, where a child molester can recognize that a child or teen has a webcam attached to the computer and is able to remotely activate the young person’s webcam without their knowledge or approval.
The dangers of webcams cannot be overemphasized. Law enforcement officials, television talk shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil, news stations and child safety advocates have worked very hard to bring greater awareness to the dangers and harmful effects of webcams, including information about the profile of a pedophile or sexual predator searching for children to molest and abuse.
Not only is it important for parents to have open dialogue with their kids and talk to their teens and children about these and other topics, but it’s extremely important for parents to know about and monitor what kids are doing online in order to supervise and protect their children from becoming victimized.
Unfortunately, even parents who know How to Use Parental Controls to protect and safeguard their child’s online activities and block access to inappropriate websites, may discover their kids are way ahead of the parents and are able to get around parental controls quite easily. Smart kids that are older and are more computer savvy, or have friends (online or offline) who are all too willing to educate them on how to get around administrator passwords and settings, laugh about the realization that they know more about computers than their parents.
If you think your own children are not at risk of becoming a victim of sexual abuse with or without a webcam, meet Justin Berry. Justin Berry was a young 13 year-old boy who, through his webcam, became part of the sordid online world of pornography, having been targeted by online predators and sexually abused over a period of years.
After being rescued by NY Times Reporter Kurt Eichenwald, Justin has become a child safety advocate, speaking out about the prevalence of sexual abuse of children online through his website InternetSafety.tv and warns parents not to allow their children and teens to have webcams.
Protecting children and teens on the internet must be a high priority for parents, and some tweens and teens can become secretive and rebellious to the point where parents have to take what may seem like drastic measures in order to keep their kids safe, including closely monitoring what their kids are doing online with computer monitoring programs. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your child or teen will tell you if they’ve been approached by or propositioned online because most children don’t tell about such things out of fear of losing their internet and computer privileges.
While I believe much can be accomplished by talking with and educating children about the dangers of webcams and internet safety, I also understand that parents have to do whatever is deemed necessary to keep kids safe online.