Teenagers hang out at malls, chat on the phone, text their friends the latest news on their cell phone, and surf the web. Social networking sites, like MySpace, Back Page, Moco or Face Book allows teens yet another way to socialize with peers. Some teens work a part-time job to make extra spending money, and yet others have learned how to make money online. These are the web-cam teens, or teens that have a web cam.
Most teens initially got the web cam to talk with their family or friends, but learned quickly it was an easy way to make some fast money and since almost every computer on the market has a web camera built into it as a standard, it is easy access for teens to use a web-cam. Web cam teens are teenagers who undress or perform certain acts in front of their web cam. They perform for individual people, in chat rooms and even around the world, for a price. The price of taking a shirt off and sitting in front of the web cam is easy money compared to working 8 hours a night at a fast food restaurant or retail shop.
Teenagers with a website like MySpace or Face Book are more likely to receive an email or online solicitation making a request for a private show. Sometimes it is dirty pillow talk in email, which escalates to the same but in an Instant Message (IM) often initiated by a lurker. A lurker is someone who has been watching what the teen says or does in a chat room for several hours or even days or weeks. Soon the magic question pops up, directed at the teen, would you like to earn some easy money?
What teenager does not want to earn fast spending money? At first, the teen may be leery and cautious, pulling back as the warning bells start to ring in his or her head. Yet, when the person only wants to watch through a web cam, the teen wonders what can it hurt. That is when money talks and a teen may agree to sit in front of the web cam without his or her shirt on for a few dollars. A smooth operator will show the teen how to set up a PayPal account and to do online transactions. This allows more people to pay the teen for his or her voyeuristic services.
The reality is that most teens that perform in front of a web cam actually live in middle or upper class homes, are above average students, and have an active parent involved in their life. One of the main reasons teens, can hide this profession from their family is they consistently surf the World Wide Web behind closed bedroom doors.
Parents with good kids believe their children are safe at home tucked into their rooms at night, so they are naive and they tend to wear blinders and allow teens to use the internet in the privacy of their own rooms. After all how much trouble could a teenager get into at home with mom or dad in the next room? Predators know parents trust their child online alone, and count on parents being naive. That is how a predator can enter your home, without ever knocking on the front door. Any night of the week a predator maybe grooming your child or teen for a meeting online or in person while you are right there watching surrounded in a false sense of security.
A parentís best bet for protecting a child from online solicitation is to move the computer out into the open. This way a parent can monitor what is coming across the computer screen as things are happening. Educating our teens and children about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate online is the next best defense against a lurking predator.
Teach kids to sign off if they feel uncomfortable by what they see or are being asked to do online. If possible as much information as possible should be written down and then sent to the Cyber tip line at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). If possible report the screen name and any inappropriate behavior to the Internet Service Provider, be sure to include any inappropriate emails along with your complaint.
Keeping teens safe online is no different than keeping them safe at home. Talk to your kids; tell them what is out there in cyberspace. After all most parents would not send a child out alone at night without first instilling some survivor tactics and safety information, and the World Wide Web is no different. Be aware of who you invite into your home via the WWW and know when to say enough and simply sign off.