When Facebook announced their partnership with Skype last year more and more teenagers suddenly had access to a convenient, easy-to-use video chat program. If your teens aren’t video chatting yet
chances are they will be soon.
Though there are many wonderful benefits to video chat it’s not without its pitfalls. Talk to your teens about the risks and take precautions to help keep them safe online.
From the time children are very young we teach them to be wary of strangers. And in this internet age strangers aren’t just on the streets. Talk with your teens about the importance of staying safe online on a regular basis. And if they use video chat (or are considering using it,) set some rules and guidelines for those services as well.
Talk about privacy
Remind your teen that she should never give out her real name, parents’ or sibling’s names, physical address or the name of her school online. She also shouldn’t accept video chat invites from people that she doesn’t know (and who aren’t known to you) in real life. Talk about online bullying and predators and how to avoid contact with strangers.
Check out her contacts list
On Skype, Facebook and other social networking programs and online chat services, each person has a contact or “friends” list. Perform regular reviews of your teen’s online friends and help them “unfriend” the people that they don’t know. If your teen breaks the rules and continues to add strangers to their list consider taking away their online privileges or instituting more restrictions on their accounts.
“Sexting” among teens is rampant and when you add video to the mix that brings a host of other problems. Talk to your teen about what is and isn’t appropriate to say online. If you believe your teen may be participating in sexual conversations, you can keep the family computer in a common area of your home — rather than the bedroom — and disable chat functions on smartphones, laptops and other portable devices.
Put together an approved list
Sit down with your teen and set up a list of their friends whom you know and your child wants to have video contact with. Include family members and trusted friends only. Set up the program to only allow chatting with people on the approved list.
Block strangers and troublemakers
Talk to your teen about blocking strangers and troublemakers. she should ignore all video chat requests from people she doesn’t want to talk to or doesn’t know. If anyone is persistent your teen can block the person from making contact again.
Though you can’t eliminate online dangers altogether, by maintaining an open dialogue with your teen and taking simple precautions, you can make their video chat experience safer and more fun.
Remind your teens that if any video chat conversation makes them feel uncomfortable, they should end the session immediately and let you know.