The webcam has become a popular tool for individuals of all ages, as well as businesses. These cams allow users to connect face-to-face, regardless of the physical distance that may separate them. Military personnel use them to stay in touch with their families while they are on deployment. Families use them to communicate with family members who live in other areas of the country or around the world. Online schools and tutors may also use them to interact with students, giving them the chance to really interact. However, regardless of the reason why you or your children use webcams, there are certain webcam safety tips that should be considered and used to protect everyone.
Webcam Safety: Webcams Are Vulnerable
Believe it or not, webcams are vulnerable to hackers who can tap into your webcam and use it to spy on you or stake out your home while you sit by unaware. It may seem like this would be a difficult task, but for someone who has the right training, this is an easy task. Norton Security warns that this tactic has been used in the past and will be used again, making it necessary to learn how to avoid giving these individuals access to your computer and webcam.
To keep your computer and your webcam safe from hackers, the following tips can decrease your risks and help you keep others out of your home, even virtually.
- Don’t open or download unknown attachments
- Use a firewall to protect your computer and network
- Use updated anti-virus software
- Keep webcams out of the bedroom
- Secure your wireless connection
- Don’t interact with people you don’t know
- Only use reputable sources for remote tech help
- Check for the indicator light if your webcam has one
- Cover the lens with tape when not in use
Understanding what to look for can help you prevent a hacker from gaining access and put a stop to it if it does happen. This will help you feel more at ease as you use your computer.
Webcam Safety: Keep Webcams in an Accessible Area
If your children will be using the webcam to interact with teachers, other children or family members, make sure the computer and any webcams are located in a general area of the home. This will keep your children from improper use of the webcam and help you identify if they are talking to the right people. Just like you would keep the computer in a family area to ensure he or she isn’t visiting the wrong websites, it is even more important when using a webcam for communication. Your child should have no reason to talk to anyone via this method without your presence. If your child argues the point, it is likely something is not right. Trust your instincts.
Webcam Safety: Never Accept Invites from Strangers
Some individuals love for other people to watch them, and they don’t often care who is on the other end of the camera. Others are looking for young children who are innocent and may be more likely to do whatever asked because they don’t know any better. In either case, it is important for your children to understand they should never accept a viewing request from someone they don’t know. Chances are if they don’t know who the person is, their intentions are not good. It is best to stick with video chatting with only those who they know for further protection.
The Viewer Can Record
An innocent video chat can quickly go wrong if the child is communicating with a cyber predator. Even if your child doesn’t do anything inappropriate on cam, the other person could be recording the exchange for their own viewing pleasure. There is no way to prevent someone who is watching you through a webcam from recording the video. This puts your child at risk. While some of these predators simply want videos of children to fulfill their own fantasies, others are looking for a child to abduct. This is an important reason for never allowing your child to video chat with someone he or she doesn’t know.
No Posting Videos
Some kids love to videotape themselves and show them off to anyone who is interested in watching. Once they discover they can create fun videos with their webcam and post them online, they are likely to do so without a second thought. However, this can create a problem. Most parents don’t want their children posting pictures online, let alone videos. Make sure your child knows it is not appropriate to post videos, especially without permission. Keeping the computer in a family area can also prevent this problem.
Keep the Background Clear
Sometimes individuals will use webcams to scope out a home to see if there is anything worth stealing. Even if your child is chatting with someone he or she trusts, there could be another person watching that isn’t as trustworthy. To prevent this, it is best to keep the background clear. A solid wall with no pictures can be the best background. If you can’t do that, hang a sheet behind the chair to block the view. In addition to keeping individuals from seeing other items in your home, it can protect your identity as well. These are important steps for protecting yourself and your children.
One common trend among teenagers is a website called Chat Roulette. This website is designed for individuals who are at least 16 years old to chat with others. The reason for the name is that users can click “next” to end the conversation and start it with another person. This can lead to hurt feelings or even harassment. Unfortunately, this website has no way to verify the age or the identity of the individuals who use it. This can cause webcam safety issues with children.
Limiting Webcam Use
It can sometimes be difficult for parents to limit the time their children spend online, particularly if they must use it for school or to communicate with family. However, as parents, it is essential to do whatever it takes to protect your children. One of the best ways to do this is to limit webcam use. Always make sure you know when your children intend to use the webcam and with whom they will be communicating. If your child can’t provide this information, either sit with him or her until the video conference begins or restrict access.
Teach Your Child What to Do
The best way you can protect your child is to talk openly about what you expect and what he or she can do if something bad happens while they are chatting via webcam. For instance, if someone is constantly making video chat requests of your child and asking the person to stop hasn’t helped, teach your child to come to you and to make a report with the website through which the request is made. This can put a stop to the behavior. If your child is chatting with someone, teach him or her to turn off the camera if the other user requests or does something inappropriate. When your child is given the tools to act, it empowers him or her to make the right choices.
The Positive Use of Webcams
In addition to helping business associates communicate in person and keeping families and friends in touch over long distances, webcams do have their place. When you keep webcam safety in mind, you can use them effectively in other aspects of your life. For instance, some daycares now use these webcams to allow parents to keep an eye on their kids while they are at work. However, if you use a daycare that offers this feature, make sure they use a secure connection and password protect the feed so only parents can view. In addition, parents can use webcams around their own homes as a security camera or a nanny cam. These helpful options can make the use of a webcam well worth the other protections you must put in place to protect yourself and your children.
Webcams have become a common tool found in many households. In fact, many computers, particularly laptops and tablets, now come with these devices embedded directly in the device. This means more children are gaining access to these cameras and may use them inappropriately. Teaching your children what you expect and making sure they, as well as you, are fully protected can make owning a webcam a positive experience.
There are many horror stories you can find about the misuse of webcams. However, for all the misuse, there are many positive uses as well. When you and your family take the right steps to protect yourself, you will enjoy the use of your computer and be able to communicate with family and friends over long distance. This is the true blessing of all the technology available today. The main priority is to teach proper use and webcam safety measures and the benefits will outweigh the risks.