Is Chatting with Strangers on Omegle a Potential Stranger Danger Situation?
Parents are often quick to remind their children to not talk to strangers they meet while out in public or walking down the street, but what about the Internet? Thanks to advances in technology, children are now faced with the opportunity to start chatting with strangers and it a problem many parents need to address.
A popular website known as Omegle offers a platform for users to chat with strangers from all over the world on a variety of topics. While this may sound exciting and fun, it could pose a potential safety risk to children.
The following will take a closer look at what Omegle is exactly and just how safe it is for children or teenagers to use.
What is Omegle?
Omegle is a free website that allows anyone who visits it to chat with strangers. A simple click of the mouse takes users to a virtual chat room where they are paired up with another random user waiting to chat.
Topics of conversation can range from current events, music, and sports to other more personal aspects such as sexual topics and personal information. A user has the opportunity to ‘walk away’ from the chat at any moment with a simple click of the mouse. Once an individual walks away, they can close the website out completely and stop chatting or be paired up with another stranger.
In addition to text chat, Omegle offers two other chat options – video chat and stealth topic based chat. Video chat provides users with the opportunity to engage in video and text chat. A cam is required for this type of chat.
Stealth topic based chat is where a random question is given to two strangers and they are encouraged to talk about the topic. Questions are based off of suggestions from fellow users and can be silly and weird, such as ‘why do ladybugs have spots’, to more personal like ‘when did you lose your virginity’.
Omegle recently released an app that provides both video and text chat to individuals who have access to a smartphone or tablet. The format is the same, but it provides individuals with access to this service without requiring the use of a laptop or desktop computer.
Is There an Age Limit on Omegle?
Omegle has a very loosely enforced age limit. In an effort to comply with COPA or Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, – which prevents websites from collecting children’s private information without permission from a parent – Omegle has a written statement that users should not be under the age of 13. The statement further requires users under the age of 18 must have parental permission. However, there is no verification required.
Anyone regardless of age can just type in the website address, click chat and start chatting with strangers. The age limit is just loosely written words that are not enforced at all.
What Monitoring is Present on Omegle?
Omegle provides no guarantee that any video or text chats will be monitored. There is a warning at the bottom of the website that video chats may be monitored. Unfortunately, while there is a promise that 24/7 monitoring will occur, there is the possibility of more video chats occurring than monitors. This provides users with the opportunity to say or do anything in the hopes of not getting caught or not being on a monitored video chat.
Text chats will only be monitored in the event that an IP address has been flagged for spam. Users are essentially free to write, ask, or talk about anything and everything they wish to discuss.
How Safe is the Video Chat Section of Omegle?
The video chat portion of Omegle is free game. Both users must have a cam hooked up and connected to a computer to even enter this section of the website. This means that pictures of your child could be broadcast to other strangers who can range in age from 10 to 99.
Is Nudity Present on Video Chat on Omegle?
Nudity is discouraged during video chat segments on Omegle. Unfortunately, there is no way to enforce this behavior. Users can start chats with their clothing on and remove them. More often than not, users can start the chats out completely nude and already engaging in sexual acts.
Many of the conversations are recorded by the users and are often published online on video forums.
Some of the common problems that arise from limited monitoring of the site include:
Encounters with people who are hoping to not be on a monitored video chat
Users who use multiple IP addresses to get around an existing ban
Nudity present at the start of a chat before a monitor can close down the chat
What Protection is Provided During Text Chats on Omegle?
There is little to no protection provided during text chats on Omegle. Users are encouraged with a written warning to not disclose personal information. However, there is a note that personal information can be disclosed at the discretion of the user.
Children and teenagers can freely disclose whatever information they wish to individuals. Information ranging from email addresses, cellphone numbers, and addresses can be provided at will to any stranger. This poses a risk to not only your child’s privacy, but to their personal safety.
What Other Concerns Arise with the Use of Omegle?
One of the biggest concerns that arise with the use of Omegle is the encouragement to take the chat or conversation off of the site. Many users will provide website links, KIK IDs, Skype user names, and phone numbers with the hopes that the individual will take the chat ‘offsite’.
If a chat is taken offsite there is no controlling what is said, shown, or done. Parents of children and teensshould be concerned, as sharing this type of information while chatting with strangers could result in personal information unknowingly being discovered. Users could trace phone numbers, email address, and Skype IDs back to physical addresses, Facebook accounts, and other personal pages that will allow the strangers to have access to a child or teenager.
Can Bullying Occur on Sites Like Omegle?
Bullying on Omegle may not be target-specific. The random pairing of individuals makes it tough to specifically target a particular individual. However, bullying may occur. Users can say or do whatever they wish, which means they are free to call names and say whatever they wish.
Bullying can get especially personal if a child or teen shares personal information, such as email addresses or Facebook accounts, with the stranger they are talking to at the current time.
Omegle also provides people with the opportunity to save existing chats. If personal information is shared, users could take saved chats and use them to embarrass, humiliate, or blackmail a child or teenager.
Are There Other Sites Like Omegle?
Omegle is just one example of a website of this nature. There are a number of other websites that follow the same stranger-stranger chat format.
Some of the other websites that are similar to Omegle include:
What Should Parents Do to Protect Their Children?
While Omegle has a number of precautions in place to try and make it a safe place, there is just no way to enforce these measures. Parents that are concerned with the safety of their child or teen could consider blocking the site completely, as this will not present them with the opportunity to use the site.
If blocking Omegle is not an option, parents should consider having a serious discussion with their child. Discussing topics such as when to disengage from a chat, having an open dialog with parents regarding online activity, and stressing the importance of not sharing personal information, will help keep a child safe.