Do you fancy talking to strangers? Do you like to socialize with people who are completely unknown to you, probably from the other side of the world? There’s a possibility that you are saying yes; why not right? But would you be okay with your twelve year old chatting with a complete stranger? Needless to say, as parents, we want our children to be exposed to a variety of people, places and experiences that mould them into dynamic and motivated individuals. But what if the person our child is interacting with is a total stranger in a virtual interaction that goes beyond our purview and control? Is the benefit worth the risk?
Omegle is a website where a person can chat with a random stranger without any supervision. Let’s see why it is so popular among the teenagers.
- Omegle allows users to socialize with strangers without sharing personal information.
- It pairs random users in chat set-ups, identified as ‘You’ and ‘Stranger’.
- Invariably, dialogue is initiated by a request for the other person’s age, sex and location - ASL. An acronym the site's subscribers are well acquainted with!
- Omegle also offers video chat for adults. But without an effective age gate, underage users can use the site by pretending to be adults.
- Though it’s said that all the content on the site is unregistered, all chats are stored in a server. If someone shares any personal information (phone number, address, email), their data is stored.
- Everything that the users disclose about themselves is archived on the website's servers for about four months.
- In 2012, Omegle added a feature that paired strangers based on shared interests.
- Age, sex and location - these are valuable filters on Omegle. Unfortunately, this information can also be used by adults with malicious intentions to identify potential targets.
- Conversations with strangers can be monitored or unmonitored, depending on the user's preference. But while ‘unmonitored’ might seem the obvious way to go, note that users are warned by Omegle of a greater possibility they will find themselves at the receiving end of explicit and inappropriate content when initiating an unmonitored conversation.
- Omegle added a dangerous feature that allows an user to capture a screenshot of the conversation.
- Users can even enter into what is known as 'Spy Mode' in Omegle. In ‘Spy Mode’, they can ask a question to two people engaged in a chat conversation and also view their conversation. Alternatively, the 'Spy Mode' feature also allows a user to discuss with another person a question posed by a stranger.
There’s quite a history of controversies associated with Omegle which makes it frighteningly dangerous for children.
- In 2014, a twenty-two-year-old man sexually assaulted two thirteen-year-old girls he made friends with on Omegle. The girls were lured into a private meeting and later assaulted.
- In 2017, a virtual assailant manipulated two underage girls into engaging in explicit and inappropriate conversations that were later used to threaten the girls.
- Recently, a man from NY travelled to Charlotte for the purpose of engaging in inappropriate activity with a minor, whom he met on Omegle.
There are a number of similar apps or websites, such as CoolMeet, ChatHub, Emerald Chat, Chatspin, Shagle, Chatrandom, Dirtyroulette, Camsurf, Bazoocam, Tinychat which are equally disturbing and filled with potential threats. So how do you safeguard your children from such sites? In an ideal situation, the best way to steer clear of danger would be to avoid using the site completely. Mentoring your child on the perils of such sites and applications also helps immensely. Setting limits and ground rules while they surf the internet is also advisable.
Omegle’s homepage itself confesses that "Predators have been known to use Omegle”, what good could possibly come out of indulging in such websites? And even assuming the positives that can be attributed to the website, they can, perhaps, be accessed in greater measure and with more benefits from other healthier and more transparent avenues.
Parental supervision is not just advised, but necessary. A parent’s responsibility is to keep children safe and Mobicip makes it easier! With Mobicip, you can block such sites or apps with our monitoring services and help your child have a safer internet experience.
Stay informed, stay safe!