Chat Roulette: What pops up, isn't always for kids

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A popular Internet site allows anyone, even children, to talk online with complete strangers. But more often than not, users are confronted with obscene behavior by someone who may have criminal intentions. When parents hear their kids using the word "chat"'s not just text on a screen that they're talking about.

Chad Brown is a computer savvy entrepreneur. So when he heard about Chat Roulette, he wanted to give it a try. It just wasn't what he was hoping for.

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

In cyberspace now for about six months, Chat Roulette allows anyone with a Web cam to connect and look for a random partner. The idea is to strike up a conversation with anyone in the world. But we soon found out, Chad wasn't kidding.

Even before lunch on a weekday morning, explicit and potentially illegal behavior was all too easy to find.

"It's rampant, and it's reprehensible," said Sp. Agent Michael Jedrey with the Virginia State Police. VSP monitors this and other sites for sex predators. He admits it can be difficult to keep up.

"Most of the time when I'm on there with my screen displaying the Virginia State Police logo, conversation doesn't last long," Jedrey said. But he adds that anything online is never completely anonymous, and those who do get caught would get in big trouble.

"Any display of your private parts to a child or minor risks serious criminal prosecution," said NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin, who added that 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 our home, if the end effect is that it's going to be displayed in public?"

While lawmakers would have to grapple with that, Chad Brown says Chat Roulette does have its benefits, like singer Ben Folds creating impromptu songs in concert, based on what he sees.

"Chat Roulette is not gonna change the world. But it has the potential to be a really great random interactive tool," Brown said.

The net effect, is a short-term pen pal; A one-time only escape into another person's life...hopefully, one who, next time, is fully clothed.

In Virginia, so far, no one's ever been arrested for using Chat Roulette. State Police say it's best for parents to always monitor their kids' Internet use, and if possible, keep the home computer in a centralized location.

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