You may or may not have heard of Omegle, a platform used by teens to speak to strangers. Their tagline is ‘talk to strangers!’, which will immediately ring alarm bells in the heads of parents.
Understandably, lots of parents are concerned about what this could mean and how this could be misused by people posing as teens. In this parents’ guide to Omegle, you’ll learn more about the platform and how you can make sure your kids stay safe.
What is Omegle?
Omegle has been around since 2005, with video chat added in 2009. Video chat is at least monitored, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Omegle refers to the members of the chat as ‘you’ and ‘stranger’, however, both participants are free to give out personal information at any time.
According to Omegle, you should not use the platform if you are under 13, but you can use it under 18 with a guardian’s permission. How can you be sure your teens are actually asking you for the ok to use the platform? You can’t.
The Dangers Of Using Omegle
There are many dangers to using a platform like Omegle, as you’ve read about the dangers of SnapChat. Teens may try to meet up with strangers from Omegle without your knowledge, for one. Your teen can never truly know who they are talking to – anybody on the internet could say they are anything or anyone. They could make up the most elaborate lie and pretend to be somebody entirely different. In some cases this might just be escapism, in others, something more sinister might be at play. There have been cases of assault because two teen girls met up with a 22-year-old they chatted to using Omegle.
Although Omegle does have lots of warnings upon visiting their home page (such as warnings about predators and advice not to tell anybody who you are), whether your teen listens or not is entirely different. Omegle is essentially encouraging teens to do something they have been told not to do for years – speak to strangers online. It’s quite a backward platform, and yet parents are still dismayed to discover that their children are using it.
The activity on the site does not go unnoticed either – the time the user’s chat began, the user’s IP address, their computer’s ID tag that is randomly generated, along with the same information for the user’s chat partner is all recorded. You’ll also be perturbed to learn that everything that the users disclose about themselves – even seemingly harmless yet sensitive and revealing information – is archived on the website’s servers for about four months.
A Guide To Keeping Your Kids Safe
With sites like Omegle in existence, you want to be able to keep your kids as safe as possible. You can’t hover over them 24 hours a day or control them, so you need to make sure you’re building a healthy, trusting relationship with them. Below you’ll find some pointers:
Talk To Your Kids About Internet Safety
Start by having a chat with your kids about internet safety in an age-appropriate way. That’s assuming you haven’t already. It doesn’t hurt to talk about things you may have read or show them articles, and ask them what they think of this goings-on. You should try to make this a two-way conversation, rather than a lecture, as kids tend to switch off. Look at out Infographic on teen safety.
Make Sure Your Kids Know They Can Talk To You
You need to let your kids know they can talk to you not with your words, but how you act. If you don’t react well to things they tell you in general, they will likely avoid sharing things with you through fear of you shouting, crying, or displaying another undesirable reaction. Learning how to keep your cool as a parent, even when you don’t feel it, is an extremely valuable skill. This doesn’t mean they get away with everything scot-free, it just means they will feel comfortable confiding in you should they need to.
Have A Shared Computer In A Public Place
Having a computer in a public space isn’t always possible, as kids tend to have their own laptops and tablets. However, encouraging them to use it in a public space, and perhaps even set boundaries for the amount of time they can spend online may help.
Look Out For Unusual Behaviour
You need to know your kids well enough to notice when something is different. Are they eating less or more? Sleeping less or more? Moody and irritable? Withdrawn? Pay attention to subtle changes.
Omegle can be a fun way for people to build confidence in chatting with others. However, there are certainly some dangers to the site. By knowing them, you can help to keep your children safe.