We live in the real world. Kids have computers, iPads, smartphones, and scores of other devices that have webcams. You know, the tiny-as-a-pin dot on the top of the screen that allows for video chatting, camera shots, and video recordings—the one that Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg and the head of the FBI keep covered when they're not using it.
You may not give webcams much thought since they seem like just another part of life in the digital age, but as a parent, here’s what you need to know and what you need to help your kids understand so they stay safe:
Explain that devices aren’t private.
Have a conversation with your child about the limits of privacy while using a device that accesses the Internet. Even more important, make sure you both understand that a computer screen is more like a window than a mirror. Surfing the web or watching Netflix may seem like a solitary activity, but that’s not always the case.
Appreciating how easy it is for people with bad intentions to access your child’s device is the only way to help them make wise decisions and to ensure you set appropriate boundaries. If this is starting to sound a little paranoid, think of it this way—we lock our cars and homes so people don’t get in without our permission, but what do we do to “lock up” when it comes to security on our devices?
No webcams in the bathroom or bedroom.
As someone who grew up dragging the corded phone in and out of everyplace it could reach, I understand a kid’s desire to stay connected to friends regardless of what room they’re in. That said, keeping screens and devices out of the bathroom and bedroom would prevent anyone from viewing your child while they might be getting changed, bathing, or sleeping.
I fully understand that the thought of a Peeping-Tom watching your child anytime, anyplace is beyond frightening, but cutting out these two locations provides a small layer of security. Help your kids understand that this bathroom/bedroom boundary is important even if they’re using their webcam to video chat with friends in these locations—hackers can tap into your camera while you’re using it with someone else.
If devices act strange, say something.
Make sure your child knows the signs of a virus, including programs running slowly, starting automatically, or seeing unusual messages. Also, talk to your child about monitoring the LED light that turns on when the camera is in use. If it flickers on and off when they’re not recording, something is wrong.
Make sure your child knows to shut things down and come to you ASAP if these things are happening. While there are programs now that allow voyeurs to access webcams while bypassing the LED light, your child will benefit from knowing what to watch for.
Cover it up.
This is the simplest and most effective way to protect your child’s privacy and prevent others from capturing images or recordings of them without their consent.
Before I started researching this issue, I thought this sounded a bit paranoid. I’m not an over-protective parent. I pride myself in allowing my kids to stumble and fall in order to build character and resilience.
My friends, I was dead wrong. Making sure your kids cover their webcam (using tape or one of these nifty devices) is necessary. It’s not helicopter parenting or micromanaging, it’s the same as making sure there are shades on their bedroom windows so the entire neighborhood does peer in as they get changed.
Listen, I get that 99-percent of the time there’s probably no one looking in, but those odds aren’t good enough when it comes to my kids and their safety. So, webcams are covered when they’re not in use. End of story.
PS-Mine is covered now too!
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