In the real world, my children need my permission anytime they want to have friends over. I know when they arrive, when they leave, and all the activities that go on in between (usually because they're so loud that I can't help from knowing, or they are so bored that I am expected to help them 'find something to do').
In the virtual world, though, we don't always have the same ability to monitor our kids' online activities, and this is especially true in the case of webcams. Webcams pose a significant threat to online safety because they can allow virtual strangers to peek inside your home, almost as if they were looking through a window. If children aren't taking the right precautions, outsiders can potentially see how they are dressed, what they look like, what they're doing and, just as with pictures, they can learn a lot about your kids from what is within view in the background.
Does your child have a webcam? Before you answer take a good look at your computer monitor or laptop because they are now being built-in and are so inconspicuous you could look right over them (especially with the newer Mac laptops). And, if they do, do you know how the camera being used?
If you permit your child to have a webcam, you should treat it the same way you would if they had a friend over, and then take some extra precautions. Here are a few tips:
▪ Set rules for when your kids can use the camera and for how long.
▪ Know who they are talking to -- it should never be a stranger, but a friend they know in the real world.
▪ The web cam should be used in an open space (not behind a closed door) where you can monitor the activity.
▪ Make certain your kids are appropriately dressed. Remember, everything on the Internet can be snagged and shared.
▪ Cover the camera or unplug it when not actively in use, just to be safe. Believe it or not, intruders can use spyware and other methods to secretly turn on a camera and view what's on the other side, even when it does not appear to be in use.
Following these tips will help you stay on top of who they've invited into your house!