One of our parents asked me what Skype was, the other day. Good question! If you and your friend have Skype on your computers you can ‘ring’ each other up and talk to each other just like being on the phone but with pictures! If you have a webcam, that’s a camera attached to your computer, you can see your friend in real time while you talk. You can also ‘chat’ online. This is called Instant Messaging (IM). You type something and your friend can type back an answer. You can get Skype by downloading it from the internet. It is free.
Like any social network, Skype can be used appropriately – to make contact with overseas friends and family, to hold a meeting, or to interview a candidate for job if they live in another State. And of course it can be used inappropriately. In particular the ‘chat’ feature can be used to ‘groom’ or cyberbully and the ‘video’ feature can be used to post explicit and/or illegal images.
The main danger is Paedophiles: Chat, email and instant messaging are the preferred methods of sexual predators for finding and grooming children. In a two-week undercover investigation by the Sunday Times, reporters who posed on Skype as children between 10 and 14 received sexually solicitations by adult men who requested a face-to-face meeting and pornographic images of themselves.
Viruses and malware: Malicious software may be embedded in file attachments sent through email or chats to damage a computer or collect personal data like credit card information and passwords. However, of the instant messaging (IM) applications, Skype is least vulnerable to exploits from viruses and worms.
Online Fraud, Phishing and Spam: IM platforms are common avenues for delivering pornographic material, spam and violent or hateful content. Underground cyber criminals for instance, are using Skype accounts to conduct fraudulent activities. The site warns against emails from websites or merchants that claim to resell Skype products and request private data. A child on Skype may unwittingly give out private information to legitimate-sounding business or organization representatives.