Updated: Dec 29, 2020
A recent resurgence in Omegle, an app/website that matches strangers to chat via webcam, has led to a spike in use by primary school students. Whilst many apps and games divide experts as to their suitability for younger users, there is absolute consensus that Omegle presents extreme risks for children and teens.
What is Omegle?
An anonymous chat (text and video) service, available on all mobile devices and computers with a web browser.
Why is it so unsafe?
No age verification required
No registration required, don’t have to even provide an email address
No parental controls or safety settings
Grooming by paedophiles
Explicit sexual content performed live
Sexual and other adult chat
Racist and homophobic hate speech
Having used Omegle recently, within 5 chats we had been asked to send nude images, sent a link to hardcore pornography and been confronted with a naked man live on camera. It is not a matter of if your child will be exposed to graphic sexual content, but when.
Is it the only anonymous “chat with strangers” app or website available?
No, there are many alternatives to Omegle with names such as Chat Roulette and Chat Random as well as a host of mobile apps including Meetme, Yik Yak and Whisper.
5 things you can implement today:
Absolutely no devices allowed in bedrooms, bathrooms or toilets for primary school aged children.
Supervise your children’s online activity (check what apps and websites they are frequenting).
Be the ‘askable and tellable’ parent. No matter what you discover or they share with you, be calm (fake it if you have to!) and ask curious questions in the first instance.
To open up the chat about ‘tricky’ topics (pornography, bullying, sexting etc.), try borrowing a story you may have read or heard about, e.g. “I saw an article online about a 12yo who was asked to send nude pics by a classmate, I wondered how would you manage this if it happened to you?” or “I was talking to a friend and her 8yo was playing Roblox and was messaged by a stranger asking for personal information. Has this ever happened to you or your friends?”
Reassure your kids often that no matter what happens you can help them sort it out AND you will not ban the internet or remove their devices if they come to you with a problem. Expect your kids to make mistakes, which is simply part of growing up and learning how to operate in a digital world.
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