Popular website could expose children to explicit images

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

(WMC-TV) - A popular website allows anyone to talk online with complete strangers.  Investigators said users are often confronted with obscene behavior.

When parents hear their kids using the word "chat", it is not just text on a screen that they are talking about.

Chad Brown is a computer savvy entrepreneur.  When he heard about Chatroulette, he wanted to give it a try.

"Well, there are a lot of male penises on Chatroulette," Brown said.  "I don't know why."

In cyberspace for about six months now, Chatroulette allows anyone with a webcam to connect and look for a random partner.

The idea is to strike up a conversation with anyone in the world.  After a few moments on Chatroulette, Brown's statement turned out to be true.

Before noon on a weekday morning, explicit and potentially illegal behavior was easy to find.

"It's rampant and it's reprehensible," said Special Agent Michael Jedry.

Jedry monitors this and other site for sex predators.  He said it can be difficult to keep up but said anything online is never completely anonymous.

"Any display of your private parts to a child or minor risks serious criminal prosecution," Jedry said.

Legal analyst Steven Benjamin said the program raises a key question.

"Do we want our laws that used to be confined to just things that we did in a public place to also reach into out home if they end effect is that it's going to be displayed in public?" Benjamin asked.

Brown said Chatroulette does have it's benefits.  Musician Ben Folds created impromptu songs in concert based on what he saw on Chatroulette.

"Chatroulette is not going to change the world," Brown said, "but it has the potential to be a really great random interactive tool."

Police said it is best for parents to always monitor their child's internet use and, if possible, keep the home computer in a centralized location.

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