A recent study on children’s health listed sexting as #6 on the list of biggest health concerns for children in the country. Parents have taken note and jumped to educate their tweens and teens about the dangers and foolishness of sending sexually charged pictures or posting them online.
However, many parents don’t realize that sexting is not just pictures anymore. As video chatting has become more accessible, more teens and even tweens are using this medium for age-inappropriate communication with horrific consequences. The Amanda Todd sextortion case began in a video chat room and ended with her suicide at age 15.
To naive kids, video chatting seems less risky because the call ends. However, screen shot capabilities and hidden recording devices make it easy to preserve the content of any video call indefinitely.
While sexy video calls between teens who know each other is bad enough, a shocking number of video chat platforms offer to matchmake calls with strangers. No vetting or identification is required to join these groups; most only require a first name and an email address. Platforms like these provide anyone with an internet connection access to your child.
Facebook Live has only worsened the problem exponentially. Launched quietly, Facebook Live is a video chat function available to Facebook users of any age. Teens have the option to make calls to any other user (even if that user isn’t on their friends list) or live stream for as many or few viewers as they wish. Facebook even provides teens with the option to restrict their live stream viewers by gender, age, location, and language. A sexy live stream that excludes parents, grandparents, and school teachers is all but encouraged through these options.
What can parents do? Set a rule for your family that video chatting must take place in a public space of your home, or at least with the door open. Then, add any and all video chatting platforms to your Clean Router’s Black List. Here are a few of the most popular ones with their URLs:
*Facebook Live (live.facebook.com)
*Google Hangouts (hangouts.google.com)
*Face Flow (faceflow.com)
*Chatous– specifically marketed as a “make new friends” platform! (chatous.com)
*Camfrog– specifically marketed as a “make new friends” platform! (camfrog.com)
You can also use the iOS parental controls function to lock any app on an iPad or iPhone, including FaceTime, SnapChat, and the others listed above. To do this:
- Open Settings
- Click on Restrictions (it’s under the General section)
- Select Enable Restrictions
- Set a password
- Toggle off any apps you don’t want your kids to use without your permission. You may also want to toggle off the Installing Apps option to prevent your kids from downloading any of the apps listed above.
Stay safe online this summer! To learn more about protecting your family on the internet, click here!