With the recent news that Skype video calling will now be part of the Outlook webmail service (see the link at the end of this post), and the popularity of webcam chat services such as Google Hangouts, it’s now never been easier to video chat with your friends and family by webcam or smartphone/tablet.
Although being able to chat face to face with someone online has its advantages, there are also a number of things to think about if you like to video chat. Some of the things to consider are technical, but the best way to reduce the risks is to take a positive approach and think carefully about how and when you use video chatting services.
In terms of the technical advice, it’s really important to know which sites and services may want to make use of your webcam or the camera on your smartphone, tablet or other portable device. When downloading an app, always take a moment to check if it wants permission to access your device’s camera. That way there’s far less chance of a site or service starting your webcam without you knowing.
Thinking before you use your webcam is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe. Always think about who you are chatting with and what you are sharing. Sharing video can give away personal information about ourselves and the feed can also be recorded by anyone watching and then potentially shared or uploaded anywhere online.
It’s also worth remembering that video chat is not a reliable way to prove someone’s identity. It’s far better to stick to chatting with friends you know offline too, rather than online only contacts. If a site or service has them, always make use of the privacy settings to control who can contact you. You should also be aware that some sites which allow you to chat to strangers could put you at risk of seeing pornographic content or adult behaviour on cam so also stick to the sites you know and trust.
At the end of the day, you can always say no. If anyone tries to convince you to do something on cam that makes you feel uncomfortable then say no and stop the video feed. You can also block or report a user to the website if they continue to harass you. If they have asked you to do something or shown you something sexual then you should tell an adult you trust and also report it to CEOP.
We are currently working on more video chatting advice so check the Hot Topics section regularly to stay up to date.
BBC: Skype now available for Outlook.com for users in the UK
Help for Skype