The Dangers of Webcams

The use of webcams in modern society, whether used at home or work, has had positive and negative effects on those who have webcams attached to or built into their computers. Children and families may use webcams to communicate with relatives and friends who live or work far away, but law enforcement is more concerned about the dangers of webcams and the harmful effects for children and teenagers who spend time on the internet.

Webcams can be purchased for as little as $20.00, and most tweens and teens who have a computer also want a webcam in order to project live images of themselves on teen chat sites, social networking sites like MySpace, Xanga and Stickam, as well as uploaded videos of themselves on YouTube. According to law enforcement, webcams are the single most dangerous peripheral device to be attached to a computer that is used by children or teens. Why are webcams so dangerous?

If you are like most parents, you would never allow a male to be in your teenage daughter’s bedroom without supervision, but it’s happening on a daily basis while young children and teens are on the internet and using webcams, right under the noses of unsuspecting parents. What’s even worse is that many teens have computers connected to the internet in their bedrooms, and many parents still don’t understand how harmful and dangerous this is. Who is watching your child on webcam?

Elementary schools are teaching kids how to use computers and navigate the internet, and young kids are often more knowledgeable about technology and computers than their parents, and these kids are often able to find ways to circumvent and override parental controls and passwords that have been set to protect children while online.

Webcams pose a serious risk to children because it allows an open window into the activities and lives (and bedrooms) of children and teens, and sexual predators are using this technology to their own perverted advantage to target and sexually abuse innocent children. There is also a very dangerous webcam-specific virus or worm called W32/Rbot-GR, where a child molester can recognize that a child or teen has a webcam attached to the computer and is able to remotely activate the young person’s webcam without their knowledge or approval.

The dangers of webcams cannot be overemphasized. Law enforcement officials, television talk shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil, news stations and child safety advocates have worked very hard to bring greater awareness to the dangers and harmful effects of webcams, including information about the profile of a pedophile or sexual predator searching for children to molest and abuse.

Not only is it important for parents to have open dialogue with their kids and talk to their teens and children about these and other topics, but it’s extremely important for parents to know about and monitor what kids are doing online in order to supervise and protect their children from becoming victimized.

Unfortunately, even parents who know How to Use Parental Controls to protect and safeguard their child’s online activities and block access to inappropriate websites, may discover their kids are way ahead of the parents and are able to get around parental controls quite easily. Smart kids that are older and are more computer savvy, or have friends (online or offline) who are all too willing to educate them on how to get around administrator passwords and settings, laugh about the realization that they know more about computers than their parents.

If you think your own children are not at risk of becoming a victim of sexual abuse with or without a webcam, meet Justin Berry. Justin Berry was a young 13 year-old boy who, through his webcam, became part of the sordid online world of pornography, having been targeted by online predators and sexually abused over a period of years.

After being rescued by NY Times Reporter Kurt Eichenwald, Justin has become a child safety advocate, speaking out about the prevalence of sexual abuse of children online through his website and warns parents not to allow their children and teens to have webcams.

Protecting children and teens on the internet must be a high priority for parents, and some tweens and teens can become secretive and rebellious to the point where parents have to take what may seem like drastic measures in order to keep their kids safe, including closely monitoring what their kids are doing online with computer monitoring programs. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your child or teen will tell you if they’ve been approached by or propositioned online because most children don’t tell about such things out of fear of losing their internet and computer privileges.

While I believe much can be accomplished by talking with and educating children about the dangers of webcams and internet safety, I also understand that parents have to do whatever is deemed necessary to keep kids safe online.

Related Posts:

Why Don’t Kids Tell? Talking to Your Children About Sexual Abuse
Child Sexual Abuse: Facts VS. Myths
Child Safety and Child Sexual Abuse Series
Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying

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18 Responses to “The Dangers of Webcams”

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  1. Lin says:

    As the article pointed out, talking to your kids about the dangers of being on the internet is very important and I even linked to my article about talking to your teens.

    However, there are many teens that are engaging in dangerous websites and chat rooms every day and their parents don’t know about it. Some parents (perhaps many) are not as educated about computers and the internet as their kids are, especially since some schools teach kids about computers and internet in kindergarten, and by the time they reach the teens year the teens know a lot more than parents.

    I also realize that there are benefits to using webcams; parents watching babysitters or daycare workers taking care of their kids; military families having conversation with their family member while away etc.

    Teens are making their own money and can easily buy a webcam and hide it so parents don’t know, such as in the case with Justin Berry.

    This is not a witch hunt against webcams entirely. I do believe education and parenting must come first, but there are many situations (like parents who are concerned about their child’s change in behavior and secretiveness, who refuse to talk) where parents may feel it necessary to use computer monitoring programs to protect their children and teens.

  2. MoneyBlogga says:

    I am sure that some may consider my solution to the webcam problem to be extreme. However, as a kid who grew up in an abusive household I am hyper sensitive to any abuse involving children. In my household, we (a) don’t have one webcam between us and we have 6 computers and (b) my kids were NEVER allowed to have behind-closed-doors internet access until they reached 18. Even then, only one of my kids elected to be connected wirelessly to the net and he’s 22 now. When the kids were juveniles and they wanted to go on the net, they had to do so in the common family area and that pretty much nipped any problems in the bud before they even got started. This may be too extreme for some people but I wasn’t going to give one of the hundreds of thousands of pervs trolling the net even half of a chance.

  3. Lin says:

    No child or teen should have a computer in their bedroom, let alone a webcam. Having computers in a common area of the house, where parents can supervise what their kids are doing online is extremely important.

    With many homes being two-income families, with both parents working, some parents have found it necessary to use computer monitoring programs as a tool to help protect their kids. Those darn parental controls do not accomplish what too many parents assume they do.

  4. While this is a very important issue, I tend to agree with Phist on this. The answer should education, so that your kids are aware of the dangers involved with having and using a webcam. Monitoring software and internet restrictions are not a good solution not only because kids will find a way to circumvent it if they want but also because it teaches your children that you don’t trust them to make good decisions. It also takes away their much-needed privacy. Teenagers, especially, are in a developmental stage where privacy is highly valued. To take that away from them by monitoring their internet activity would be harmful to their development. They will be looking up things online that are private to them, questions that they don’t necessarily feel comfortable asking you or their teachers, and they need to feel confident in their privacy and ability to find the answers that they need. Trust and privacy are highly valued by children, especially teenagers, and taking it away from them would be very detrimental in my opinion.

    • Lin says:

      Hi John, educating children and teens about the dangers of webcams is important, and I say so in this article.

      However, given the seriousness and dangerous ways that pedophiles go about finding victims, I do not and will not agree with your assertion that monitoring software and internet restrictions is not a good solution for parents. Parent MUST know what their kids are doing online, and that is just one reason why I make clear that talking to children and teens about the things that often occur online in very clear language is so important for parents.

      Trust is of course important, but it works both ways. Age appropriate privacy is also important, but too many parents pay no attention whatsoever to what they’re children and teens are doing online or offline and it’s about time that parents recognize the real dangers that are posed by webcams in the home.

  5. I agree that webcams can be a bad thing for the child but it’s better to educate rather than to forbid. Because when they leave home there will be nobody to forbid. That’s why the Internet education should go first.


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