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Your Child May be Meeting Strangers on Her Smart Phone!

Parenting advice from CT resident and national parenting expert and 5-time author Bill Corbett.

There are two Web sites attracting more and more children and teens that many parents are not aware of.  These sites are a danger to children and parents need to know about them now!  One is Omegle and the other is Chat Roulette, and they are both accessible from any Internet device, such as computers, iPads, kindle-like reader devices, tablets, and even smart phones.

These two sites are known as “video chat” Web sites and can be accessed by anyone with an Internet accessible device.  There is no security or sign up screens to go through and nothing verifies the user’s age.  Anyone can simply go to the site and begin conversing with any random person in the world without supervision or regulation.

Law enforcement agencies in many cities have issued warnings to parents to keep their kids off of these sites.  The Web site boasts that it is a place where meeting strangers is OK but cautions that it is for children 13 and up.  It is becoming more of a general opinion that no children or teens should be allowed on these sites at all.  There have been hundreds of incidents reported to authorities of children being engaged in sexual conversations or acts with undressed male strangers.

My wife and I became aware of this site when we intercepted some chat conversations between our teenager and her friends.  At least two friends admitted spending time on the site without their parent’s knowledge.  We immediately implemented security measures on the Internet-enabled devices our child uses, to lock out access to these dangerous sites

The draw of Web sites where kids can meet new friends is understandable.  Our tweens and teens are in a development stage where their peers are becoming more important then parents and siblings.  They crave attention by and connection to their peers to fulfill their sense of needing to belong to their group.  This, along with the fact they do not have enough life experiences to know how to keep their personal information private, makes them very vulnerable to predators on the Net.

So what can parents do?  I believe that there are two choices we can make, based on our ability to engage in and know technology:  we can provide our child with technology and social media devices if we have the time and know-how to set up all necessary safety measures to keep them safe, or we can ban them until they are older.  Based on what I’ve seen in most families, parents suffer from the “halo effect,” believing their child wouldn’t explore inappropriate sites or engage in contact with a stranger.   And then there are others with no time or Internet knowledge and they assume there are no dangers to their kids having Internet accessible devices unsupervised and in their bedrooms.

Sites like Omegle and Chatroulette are real dangers to our children, go check them out for yourself.  The risks to our kids associated with unsupervised Internet access outweigh the benefits.  It’s time parents step up and get engaged in their children’s activity on the Net or set up clear limitations and boundaries

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