A webcam can seem like a pretty harmless thing to an adult. While most new laptops come with one installed, we’d venture a guess that most adults never use them, unless it is to Skype far off family members. When your teen or tween has a webcam, though, a whole new set of risks and worries is introduced, and parents need to be aware.
Specifically, when communication via the internet moves from text to live video, parents should have a heightened awareness of predator risk, and the increased chance that a minor will make a bad decision with long-lasting consequences.
Some specific areas for parents to focus on are as follows:
Keep it out of the bedroom – As kids grow older, their laptops or tablets tend to move from the kitchen or family room to their bedroom, either with the blessing of parents or without. Especially when the device is equipped with a webcam, parents should make sure the laptop stays in a common area of the home, where parents can keep an eye on what is happening.
Your kids probably know more about it than you do – The idea of filming live video and posting it to a website might seem like a daunting task to a parent. Trust us, kids can figure out how to do it quite easily. If you’re not sure how to start a conversation about safe webcam use, you could start by asking whether your child has filmed any video, and what she has done with it.
Heightened awareness of stranger danger – Of course, “don’t talk to strangers” is still good advice, even online. If your teen or tween is using a webcam, she should under no circumstances engage with strangers.
Clearly define what is appropriate – The rules are up to you. In addition to not communicating with strangers, you might want to prohibit foul language and adult topics, and certainly restrict your teen posting personal information that could lead a predator to your exact location.
Don’t avoid a discussion about sexting – Whether your child is actively dating or not, peer pressure and bad decisions can result in risqué photos or video being sent or posted. Once a video is sent, your child has no control over where it is posted or who else it is sent to.
Have a plan – If your child is sent an inappropriate video, been approached and pressured to send one, or you suspect that she has sent one, you should have a plan for what options are available. If a predator is involved, be prepared to involve the police quickly. If your child has been engaging in risky behavior, you need to get to work.
Keep communicating – Laying the groundwork one time is unfortunately not enough. As your child changes, and cultivates different friends and interests, the urge to post more of different types of videos could be powerful. Revisit the conversation often, and consider what is changing in your teen’s life that could lead to different behavior.
Once your child has a webcam (or smartphone) there is no guarantee that mistakes won’t be made. Parents who are aware of the risks and constantly communicate a positive message to their kids are in the best position to help prevent a problematic or unsafe outcome.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.