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Internet Chat: Hidden Dangers

Experts have a warning for parents about internet chat sites. An increasing number of young people  are logging on and a lot of the content is pornographic.
Experts have a warning for parents about internet chat sites. An increasing number of young people  are logging on and a lot of the content is pornographic.  Two of the more popular websites Chatroulette and Omegle have millions of visitors a month.  Both encourage you to talk to strangers.  Visitors are required to be 18 or have a parents permission.  However, many parents have never heard of these websites. 

Dr. Jennie Schaff, a professor at Nazareth College, has studied the effect this websites have on young people. "I click scan and all of the sudden I am face to face with some other user around the world.  All of the sudden we are talking to one another," said Dr. Schaff.   We asked a 16-year-old girl, with her parents permission and close adult supervision, to show us what these sites are all about.  There is no log in and you don't have to register.  Most of the chatting is done by typing, but you can use microphones.  It started out pretty innocent.  The teen only asked basic questions like "Where are you from?"   Then we click next and a man appears with no shirt and another is touching himself.  We immediately disconnect.   Another man wants the teenager to watch him get undressed.  She tells him she is only 16-years-old.  He doesn't mind.  In fact, not one of the men seemed to mind that the teenager was underage.  In fact, one man asked if she was underage.  She says, "yes."  He says, "Okay."

Over the next hour or so more and more men showed up ranging in age from 18 to 53-years-old.   "Unfortunately, what happens is that there is a significant number of people who are undressed or doing inappropriate things.  No one in monitoring," said Dr. Schaff.  In our case the teenager was closely monitored and did not engage in any inappropriate behavior.   However, some kids are logging on every night. Company officials claim the site is monitored around the clock.  Doctor Schaff doesn't believe it because the content is often X-rated.  "We have to become acquainted with this technology not just enamored by it and train the kids, train the parents and train the teacher how to use it safely," said Dr. Schaff.   Another danger is that some teenagers are giving out their personal information. 

We tried to contact both sites, but there is not a phone number and emails bounced back.  Many of these chat sites are hosted out  of the country.  On Wednesday night News 8 at 11 p.m.  will air part two of our series.  An investigator with The Monroe County Sheriff's Department talks about why it's so difficult to arrest the men on these sites.  Also, the investigator has valuable tips on what parents can do to protect their children. 
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