Cabarrus

ChatRoulette is no place for kids to video-chat

My husband and I do not allow our 13-year-old son to use Skype or any other type of video chatting. We allow Facebook and Twitter, but not Skype.

His friends are aware of the restrictions in our house, and some have started to bring their own laptops over so they can Skype and video-chat without technically breaking our house rules. As a result, I learned about a website that I think all parents should be aware of.

ChatRoulette.com is a popular site on the Internet. If you have a tween or teen who likes to video-chat or use Skype, you had better hope your child is not hitting that site. Though there has been ample warning to parents, you may be like me and have never heard of it.

The FBI cybercrime unit and child advocacy groups are taking note of the site. It allows users to connect via webcam with random strangers. Each person video chatting can see exactly what the other is doing. Many people on chatroulette.com are doing things that are not appropriate for your tween or teen to see.

The site, chatroulette.com, allows users to video-chat or send instant messages. Each user can decide to keep chatting or discontinue that chat and move on to someone else. The site has no filters.

The site's disclaimer requires users be at least 16 years old, but only parents or guardians can enforce that. It also states obscenity is not allowed, but offers no enforcement.

According to techcrunch.com, data were compiled on 2,883 ChatRoulette sessions. Findings concluded that about half of all ChatRoulette "spins" connect the user with someone in the U.S., followed by France at 15 percent.

One in eight connections yielded something R-rated or worse. When the spin showed one person, 89 percent were male and 11 percent female.

Special FBI Agent Coleen Moss, head of cybercrimes, said, "About 50 percent of it probably is material that parents or just regular people in general will find objectionable." Moss advised: "Talk with your children about what you think is appropriate or not appropriate for them to be doing online."

New university campus

Strayer University has opened a Huntersville campus on Reese Boulevard near Interstate 77. It will offer undergraduate and graduate programs in fields including accounting, business, education, health services administration, information systems and public administration.

The 118-year-old university's purpose is to help working adults continue their education by offering many choices on when, where and how they take classes.

It has flexible class schedules with evening and weekend hours, plus online learning options.

Details: 704-379-6800.

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