Hey…Watch This: The Dangers of Video Chat and How to Protect Yourself

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It is astounding when we sit back and think about just how far communication has come in recent history. While many can remember only having the option of a letter or a phone call, these days there is a plethora of ways to engage each other. Distance and cost are not as much of a concern with the integration of communication services through the Internet. However, with the ease of sharing our private lives with friends and acquaintances, comes risk.

The newest trend in social networking is the integration of video chat. Video chat is now available on many smartphones and the social media powerhouses have introduced applications which make it easy to talk “face to face” with any of your social media contacts. This will push the growth of video chat exponentially. There are also new programs which randomly hook up video chatters for the purpose of meeting new people.

When used properly this is an amazing new tool for communication. Users can see their grandmother in Texas from their living room in Oregon. Long distance relationships can be less painful when there are dinner and movie dates, which simulate personal interaction, to look forward to. However, as with any new technology there is a dark side. Some of the risks of engaging in video chat include:

  • Identity theft: Personal information given during chat sessions can be used to assume an identity, whether it is the person you are chatting with or someone within earshot.
  • Sexual abuse: When a user connects to another user there is no telling what will be on the other end. There is the risk of running across pornographic material.
  • System security: Video chat is just another way that hackers can transmit malware into a user’s computer.

In order to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of a video chat related crime you can follow the below simple tips:

  • Be sure that the privacy settings on whatever program or network you are using are set appropriately. For most users that means that only certain pre-approved people can access them for chat sessions.
  • Keep your security software up to date. Malware develops just as fast as the Internet and your protection needs to be updated and complete.
  • Make sure you actually know all of the contacts in your social media circles. When you video chat with someone you are invited them into whatever environment you may currently be in. Would you invite the person you are chatting with into your office or your bedroom?

If you are a parent with concerns about your child using a video chat site, you can protect your child by:

  • Not allowing webcams in a child’s bedroom
  • Block sites that could be potentially dangerous on your child’s laptop
  • Talk to you kids about why video chat can be dangerous and what to do if they believe they have been put in a dangerous situation

The developments that are being put forward by web 2.0 on a daily basis are simply astounding and will continue to grow. Many of these new developments will connect us in ways never before dreamed of and with a safety based approach they will provide that much more happiness.

 

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Nikki Junker

Nikki Junker is Social Media Coordinator and Victim Advisor at The Identity Theft Resource Center. She specializes in Identity Theft on social networks and smartphones. She enjoys working one on one with victims of identity theft as well as researching and writing about preventative measures for consumers.