The “Bits & Bytes” Column by Chris Leto has relocated from the Senior Advocate to the AGE of Austin blog!
What is a webcam? It’s a camera that you can attach to your computer that allows you to see others and be seen yourself. They are fairly cheap. I was able to pick up mine for under $30 at Best Buy. Your webcam can also include a microphone and if you are interested in getting a webcam, then make sure it also has a microphone included inside.
Once signed onto chatroulette, the bottom of your screen shows you as you are seen by your camera. So make sure that you don’t have anything in your teeth and your hair looks nice. On the top part of the screen is where someone else with a webcam will appear.
You can then speak to each other using the microphone or if one of you don’t have a microphone, then you can type out your questions and answers.
The roulette part concerns who you are chatting with. If you don’t want to chat with that person or they don’t want to chat with you, then either of you can hit the next button and be randomly sent to the next person.
The program was created so that people all over the world could instantly connect with each other. The seventeen year old who created the program wanted to talk to other teens in America, England, Germany, all over the world.
News organizations caught onto it because of the potential exposure for minors. Chatroulette doesn’t ask for any age verification. Someone who is twelve years old can sign on just as easily as someone who is fifty. The first time I signed on the first person I was connected with was a shirtless older man who was just dancing in place. Obviously looking for attention and a pretty bad dancer, I clicked next. After a few moments I was connected with two women who quickly took off their shirts. I just as quickly hit next. The next few people were of various ages and races and either they clicked next or I did.
Finally I was connected to a young man who quickly held up a sign that said “DON’T HIT NEXT!” So, I didn’t and waited for him to speak. He is twenty three and from Moscow, Russia. He was just in the mood to meet a new person and was desperate for conversation. His English was very good and for the next hour we talked about sports, politics, his desire to come visit America, my desire to see Russia. We talked about the differences and similarities between our two peoples and what our favorite foods were.
After awhile the conversation winded down and it was time for me to start making dinner. We exchanged email addresses and hoped that we would be able to talk again real soon. It was a great conversation that made me want to quickly sign back on and meet someone else new and from somewhere outside of the country.
I think chatroulette is a fantastic program and plan to use it again when I have the time. While you do have to be cautious of the types of people who are online and make sure you don’t give out any important information about yourself (full name, address, phone, credit card…), I think the adventure of just being able to click on a button and be able to start chatting with anyone in the world is an awesome idea.
If you are a parent or grandparent I would be careful about letting anyone under the age of 18 use the program. While it is a wonderful educational tool for a person to be exposed to other people’s ideas and cultures, there is also a great chance that they will be exposed to things that have nothing to do with education or culture.
Technology doesn’t move backwards and using webcams to chat with people is here to stay. Instead of shying away from this technology, embrace it and enjoy it.