Skype, Facetime, Tango, Fring, Chatroulette, SocialEyes, RandomRounds — search kids and video chat and you will find countless apps and services enabling online face to face conversations. With cameras built into computers, televisions and mobile devices, video calling is easier and expanding. What used to be a scratchy line and a dollar a minute is now a clear picture, great audio and free.
As kids move to smartphones and other mobile devices,calling friends and video chatting via social networks is likely to grow. Most smartphones and tablet computers already have video calling enabled. An Ipod Touch even without cellphone capabilities still allows video chatting via Facetime. Instantly, you can be chatting one on one or part of a group video chat.
Social networks are also including applications for video chatting. Facebook has recently added SocialEyes. SocialEyes uses Facebook Connect to see friends and begin chatting with them individually or in a group. SocialEyes users can create chat groups with family or strangers with shared interests. Users also can leave the application open so the friends can see and hear one another even when they’re not chatting.
Another Facebook application, Random Rounds, connects people not on friends lists through random video chat rounds. Random Rounds appears to be modelled after Chatroulette without random naked men. Random Rounds attempts to reduce the potential for abuse by allowing only users with 100 Facebook friends or more. This restriction prevents people from setting up new fake accounts. Users are also grouped by age — 13 to 17 and 18 and up — to prevent kids from inappropriately chatting with adults. However if a kid entered a false birthdate to open a Facebook account, they would be included with an older age group.
Before your kids enter the world of video chatting remember to:
- Utilize Privacy Settings – Review privacy settings on any application or program. Most video chat programs allow you to limit communication to only your contact list. For example, Skype allows you to set your Privacy Settings so only your Skype buddies can contact you.
- Review rules for sharing – Even though you can see the person, if you have not met them in person you are still chatting with a stranger. Their profile or their appearance may not reflect their true age or who they are in reality. Also make sure you have talked with your kid about what to do if a video chat becomes uncomfortable or inappropriate. Most sites have a mechanism for ending the chat and reporting these users.
- Share how private conversations can become public – By design, it is easy to record video conversations. Video conversations can be recorded with apps or by taking a video of the screen. People participating in the conversation often have no way of knowing if a conversation is being recorded. Conversations originally between two people may show up unexpectedly on YouTube.
- Turn off Geolocation – Tinychat is one of several new applications coming out allowing for geolocation paired with video chat. Linking this two technologies allows for a realtime picture as well as the real location . For most kids, geolocation should be disabled on their mobile devices.