The other day my friend Joseba Gutierrez, PandaLive Technical Support engineer, sent me an email with the latest Robbie Williams video.
This time the British singer promotes the single Losers from his latest album Take the crown, in a peculiar way. Basically, he is sitting on a couch with his laptop as he sings out loud to users who are randomly connecting to Chatroulette and see it by webcam. For those of you who are not familiar with Chatroulette, this is a website based on the videoconference, but is unique in the randomness of the participants. Visitors begin to talk to a stranger, being able to leave the conversation at any time to start another conversation. The video is funny because some participants think Robbie is not really Robbie, but someone pretending to be him. Therefore, they disconnect themselves and go on to the next random user. But those who believe it is really him singing to them, are amazingly shocked. The video is clever, funny and has a surprising end of dubious taste.
But then I thought about the possible risks that a chat application of these characteristics may entail. I told you a few weeks ago that I loved to play Angry words. I usually play with my Facebook friends, but sometimes I also play with opponents who are elected by the application completely at random. It is not risky because the shared information is minimal and is always related to the games; how many times you won, how many you lost, how many you have resigned, what is the longest word you’ve written, in what languages you have played and little else.
In Chatroulette, the goal is to establish total and open video-communication with people you do not know at all. And although Chatroulette has gradually been applying more and more measures to protect privacy and content control, in my opinion it is still very easy to elude them. Let’s take for example, the point of access, the registration process, where anyone can enter false data. And that includes minors, who, as we know, are so keen on chats.
Chatroulette lays your identity bare naked. Speaking of naked, according to a study by RJMetrics published by TechCrunch, “The overall rate of perverts on Chatroulette is 13%. This means that about 1 in 8 chat sessions will have something decidedly rated R or NC-17. NC-17, according to the Motion Picture Association of America and American Association of Movies, describes NC-17 content as:
“Most parents would clearly consider it too adult for children under 17. The rating simply indicates that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience. An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrant behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children “.
Clear as day. It is a real danger. An adult should be psychologically prepared to take pornographic content. However, a minor is much more vulnerable. Joseba, my friend, is a member of Chatroulette himself, so who better than him to see what he thinks:
Joseba, of all the times you’ve connected, how many times have you seen inappropriate content?
Since they changed the system which now requires registration and includes a more sophisticated ban system – not efficient enough because the filters are not performed correctly, though – I would say on average, 4 out of 10.
Have you ever videochatted with people who were clearly underage?
Quite a few times and almost always without adult supervision. The few times that there was an adult it was the 20 or so year old brother or sister who don’t care about what their little sister or brother is doing.
What would you recommend to a parent to allow his teen into these networks?
If the kid really wants to use the web to talk to new people as a fun pastime, and I understand it, as to me it is also a lot of fun, then, I would let him use it but always with supervision and control. If parents are not going to be on top of it or are a bit overwhelmed by computers, Internet and so on, I would choose a web filtering system or a system to block access to the site. That way they don’t have to worry about whether the child is using the web or not or what he is seeing or not.
I would add to what Joseba says that, once again, parents have to make an effort to know what sites and networks their children use. An informed parent can always prevent.
I post a video on Chatroulette that was shown in Southpark to laugh a little.
What is your opinion? Had you heard of Chatroulette or similar programs before? Do your teens use or have ever used Chatroulette?