Chatroulette.com, chances are, if you haven't heard about this online phenomenon, your kids have. The set up is easy. All you need is a webcam and click play, and you are randomly connected to strangers from all around the world.
âActually, we went on last night and some Chinese guy came up and said, âI love America!', and I'm like yes!,â said one Boston University student.
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Chatroulette.com was launched just four months ago by a Russian high school student out of his home, and already at any given time about 35,000 users are on the site. There are reportedly over 1.5 million members, one third of those users from the United States.
College users tell me they love it, comparing it to a frat party filled with shallow conversations that go no where, âLike, you know you're not going to find the one, or not going to find your best friend, but its still fun to have these conversations with random people that you will never see again,â says Boston University Senior, Jennifer Choi.
If you don't like what you see, just press the next button on the top of the screen. âIf real life was like Chatroulette, no one would ever really know anyone for very long,â says BU sophomore Samantha Rick.
Others tell us though, they hate it. Disgusted by people who use this site for their own peep show, showing off some very private parts. Nudity aside, BU communications professor Mina Tsay says Chatroulette.com is a great platform for shy or lonely people, no need to give out personal information unless you want to.
But because of that anonymity, Tsay says, Chatroulette also tends to bring out the seedy types, âthis ideas that some people could be much more voyeuristic who go into these sties because they enjoy salaciously seeking out people's privacy and seeing nudity potentially, and also engaging in sexual behaviors online.â That is exactly what concerns law enforcement, who worry Chatroulette could turn into a predator's paradise.
Although the rules on the home page say you must be 16 to play, and you need to keep your clothes on, Canton Police School Resource officer and member of the Metrolec Computer Crime Unit, Chip Yeaton says it's clear a lot of people are breaking the rules, and parents need to be more vigilant about supervision. You need to ask yourself, he says, would you want your own child looking at this site? âIt's taking pornography to the next level because you're having live grown men masturbating, and a 12 or 13 year-old-girl is going on this website and witness' this without any parental supervision or parental knowledge whatsoever,â Yeaton says.
The F.B.I. is also taking note, and offered these suggestions:
-Don't let your kids bring computers into the bedroom. Keep it in a busy room where there is a lot of foot traffic
-Consider monitoring software that allows you to see what your kids are doing online at all times
-Communicate with your kids. Ask them about the sites they are visiting
-Visit the sites yourself
Special Agent Kevin Swindon of the F.B.I. is in charge of the F.B.I. Cyber Crime Unit in Boston. âIt's the same lessons we learned as kids. Look both ways before you cross the street, don't talk to strangers. It's the same kind of life lessons we need to also talk to them about being online,â Swindon says.
Still, as long as it's legal, college students like Jennifer Choi see no problem with Chatroulette.com, nakedness and all, âIt's like going to a creepy dive bar in Allston, J.P. Like you know you're going to run into those creeps but that's part of the charm,â Choi says. If you don't like it, students say don't play, just was a few minutes for the ânextâ online craze.
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