Chat Roulette: Don't chance it with your teen

There is an element of chance in everything we do. The same is true in cyberspace. But go inside ChatRoulette.com, and odds are you'll find most users with their pants down!

The new and growing website is allowing people to randomly connect to each other all over the world. In Russia, France, and here in the U.S., all it takes is a webcam and the click of a mouse, and you find yourself face-to-face with a complete stranger from anywhere in the world. No registration required.

But with thousands of anonymous users online at any given time, critics of the site say it's a lot like taking a dangerous gamble. "Basically, people are logging on, and they're kind of just rolling the dice," says Nathan Quigg, Technology Director for Oregon City Schools.

It's a gamble that could land you a celebrity or even a popular band practicing online. But, like so much of the online universe, there is a seedier side to Chat Roulette.

Quigg says there's a lot on the Chat Roulette wheel that parents need to know about. "You never know what you're going to get. It may be someone on the other end doing something humorous, but a lot of times it's something inappropriate. Pornography. There's a lot of things you don't want your children to see happening," he warns.

A recent study shows Quigg isn't far off. The study by online statistics company RJMetrics shows 1 out of every 8 spins on Chat Roulette will show sexual images so raunchy we can't show them on TV.

It's no secret anymore that parents need to closely monitor their children's online usage, but the statistics are still alarming. 20% of video chatters are in their teens. The vast majority of people taking a ride on the Chat Roulette wheel are men. Men who "go for the shock factor," according to Quigg. "They want to see the other person, how they react on the other end of the camera."

The creator of the website is a teen. Andrey Ternovskiy launched the site last winter when he was just 17-years-old. Ternovskiy recently told The New York Times that he has banned people from the site whose online video chats have appeared to be too obscene. "Everyone finds his own way of using the site. Some think it is a game. Others think it is a whole unknown world. Others think it is a dating service. I think it's cool that such a simple concept can be useful for so many people," he said in the site's defense.

Quigg says the responsibility, ultimately, remains on parents. Parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing while on the computer. He suggests putting the computer in the living room. There are also programs available to install on your computer to block certain sites.

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