What is it?

A webcam is an inexpensive video camera connected to a computer (usually by USB) or built in to a portable computer. The video can be sent in real-time to another computer or computers or can be used to create video clips or still photos.

How does it work?

A webcam generally includes a lens, an image sensor and internal electronic circuitry in a plastic housing. The camera's electronics read images from the sensor and transmit them digitally so they can be displayed on the receiving computer.

Why is it useful?

Webcams are used for a variety of reasons, including communicating between friends and families using VoIP services, court proceedings when witnesses are located remotely, for medical reasons, to transmit images from dangerous locations, and for hearing impaired people who need sign language to communicate, just to name a few.

What do you need to keep in mind about your child using webcams?

Unfortunately, webcams can be turned on remotely through spyware programs so it is essential to have a firewall and anti-virus protection software. It is also essential that your child understands the dangers of using the webcam to speak to or interact with strangers on the internet. Also, transmitting images of themselves in a sexual way can not only be dangerous to their privacy and wellbeing, but could be unlawful and lead to prosecution. One recent use of webcams that is potentially harmful for children under 18 is the website Chatroulette where strangers randomly see each other via webcam.

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