Many parents have probably heard of – but aren’t fans of – the video chat site Chatroulette. The purpose of the site is to pair random strangers online to participate in chats over webcam. After a surge in popularity last year, the site had to temporarily shut down when when approximately 1 in 8 users started showcasing “R-rated content” including pornographic images. Despite the re-launched site’s promise to monitor inappropriate content more closely, Chatroulette is still probably something that most parents are wary of because of the anonymity of the people their kids are in contact with.
Now there is a new video chat site called Pick or Skip. The site promises a safer and more structured experience than Chatroulette, calling itself “the first social network based on online video chat allowing users with similar interests and desires to meet.” Founded February of this year, Pick or Skip requires new users to provide their name, email address, birthday, and other validating information. The site requires a more extensive registration process than Chatroulette, and users have the ability to report abuse that can then ban inappropriate users.
The site also has “channels” that participants can use to find other people with whom they have something in common. Topics of discussion include dating, friendship, technology, finance, sports, music, politics, travel, entertainment and fashion. After selecting specific channels, users are matched up based on the established criteria. However, if after 20 seconds they don’t want to chat with that person anymore, they can “skip” them and move on to the next person. Otherwise, they “pick” that initial user and continue to chat with them, even adding the user as a contact to talk with again later on.
While Pick or Skip seems to be a safer alternative to Chatroulette, it is still a site that parents should know about. If kids are thinking about using this site, they need to understand how crucial it is to never give away any personal information online – including their full name, address, or school to someone they meet online. Sharing any of this information can give a potential online predator easy access to a child. The site also fosters potential cyberbullying, as users can skip over people they don’t want to talk to. In the 20 seconds while they’re deciding if they want to “pick” or “skip” a user, cruel comments could abound. Monitoring the nature of sites like these is important for parents, as kids will always want to participate in the latest and greatest online trends. By teaching online safety early on, they can avoid the negative consequences certain kids can find online, and have an overall positive experience.
Have your kids expressed interest in this chat site? What are your thoughts about online communication with total strangers?