Video Chat and Webcams

Live video chat and streaming has become a key way for people to connect, communicate and share their ideas and experiences online. 

With every smartphone, tablet and laptop possessing a camera, and instant video chat with one person or many people available in a wider number of social media apps and services, it’s never been easier to stay in touch with family and friends.

For specific advice for young people on livestreaming, check out the Livestreaming hot topic: www.childnet.com/livestreaming

How can I support young people?

There are a huge number of positive uses and potential for using video chat services and webcams as tools for
communication and a number of sites, apps and services may wish to access your webcam. The advice below can be used to support young people in managing the risks associated with webcams and video chatting.

Top Tips

  • Think before you cam Open or Close

    Encourage young people to always consider who you are chatting to and what you are sharing with them. What you share on camera (including things in the background) can give away personal information. Remind young people to be aware that webcam or live video footage can also be recorded by someone and then potentially shared and uploaded anywhere online.

  • Online friendship Open or Close

    On some services young people may receive chat requests or invites from people they don’t know. Encourage them to think carefully about who you choose to chat to and why they might want to video chat with you. Live video can be faked so remembering that the person you see on camera may not be the person you are actually speaking to is important. If a site or service has privacy settings, encourage young people to always make use of them to control who can contact them. 

  • Webcam content online Open or Close

    Some video chat services allow users to chat to and see strangers online and may put them at risk of seeing pornographic or violent content or sexual behaviour on camera. This content should always be reported to the website/service and be blocked via blocking tools if available.

  • You can always say no Open or Close

    People may use video chat to convince a young person to take part in a dangerous dare, to appear naked on camera or perform sexually suggestive acts. This can then be recorded by the watcher and be potentially used to threaten or blackmail.  Inform young people that if someone ever asks them to do or say anything on camera that makes them feel uncomfortable then they can say no, end the chat and tell an adult they trust.  

    Remind them that it is never too late to tell someone.

    They can also block or report a user to the website/service if the harassment continues.

  • Tell someone Open or Close

    If a young person has been the subject of inappropriate sexual contact or approach by another person via webcam or other forms of online communication then it is vital to tell a trusted adult and to report it to the police via the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

Technical Advice

  • Emails and links Open or Close

    Webcams can be affected by viruses so encourage young people to be wary of emails and messages on social networks from strangers that invite them to click on a link or open an attachment. These may actually contain malicious programs which allow the stranger to control a webcam or device remotely.

    Remind young people to ensure that antivirus and firewall protection is kept up to date on devices that have cameras or use webcams.

     

  • Think where a webcam is in the home Open or Close

    Advise young people that webcams connected to computers should not be located in bedrooms or more private areas of the house. Although it is rare, there have been cases of webcams being hacked by programs/users to take pictures or video without the owner’s knowledge.

    Unplugging the webcam, covering the lens or pointing it at a blank wall when not in use are good steps to take to minimise this risk, as is closing the laptop lid when not in use.

     

  • Know which sites/services use webcams Open or Close

    Sites, services and apps may ask for permission to use a webcam. Before accepting, young people should always think carefully about why the service may want to use their camera and who may be able to see the video feed.  If in doubt, it is best not to allow the app or site to have access. 

  • End calls and log out Open or Close

    Young people should always make sure they end a video chat when finished and log out of the site or service. This can help prevent anyone from accessing their account or webcam without their knowledge.