Parents are often quick to remind their children to not start to chat with 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 a chat with strangers and it is a problem many parents need to address. Learn more about the Omegle Chat with Strangers phenomenon.
A popular website known as Omegle offers a platform for users for starting a 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, who believe there is safety in a chat with strangers?
The following will take a closer look at what is Omegle chat exactly and just how safe is an omegle chat for children or teenagers and what are the dangers of the stranger chat phenomenon.
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 with strangers, 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 an Omegle Chat?
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 a chat with strangers. The age limit is just loosely written words that are not enforced by many websites, as this is something that could be hard for a business to do and enable them to scale to the numbers they need to make their business viable.
What Monitoring is Present on an Omegle Chat?
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 do you Video Chat on Omegle? How Safe is the Video Section of Omegle Chat?
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 13 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.
Omegle does promise to try and monitor video chats 24/7 with ‘living, breathing humans’, but monitoring is limited.
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, when in a chat with strangers, 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.
ew i just went onto omegle and i just saw something so frickin disturbing
— yc (@pudgepls) January 8, 2014
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.
Ange is stripping for this guy on omegle and I want no part of it. So disturbing.
— Dìrty d (@delysiac) January 2, 2014
What Other Concerns Arise with the Use of Omegle Chat?
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’.
Omegle, like many other websites can be an amazing way to communicate with others, meet new people and friends. Like all websites and technology – or day to day offline activities, these can be good, safe and positive interactions – or if used in the wrong way – negative and unsafe. The most important thing is that anyone using these websites must understand what they are doing, the rules and what to do if things go wrong in an Omegle talk to strangers situation. If you are a parent or teacher reading this, by having an open and honest chat with your child or children on what could happen in an omegle talk to strangers scenario, you will encourage them to be open and honest with you when things go wrong. It can be hard to watch over our children every minute of every day – we need them to know what is right and wrong. The same conversation we would have with them about the offline world, we do not want them to think that just because they are sitting on the family couch in your home that they are safe. The internet is an amazing place for everyone – but sadly, sometimes it is not safe – so we need to ensure we empower and give our children then knowledge on how to use sites and services similar to the Omegle chat room safely.
Remember the Possible Dangers of an anonymous stranger Chat Platform like the Omegle chat room can be:
- Addiction – Your child can easily be addicted to video chatting on Omegle. The thought of talking to random people excites the youngsters and soon enough, they will form several relationships through it.
- Anonymity – There is always a question of whether or not your profile that contains your personal information is safe from prying eyes. Anyone can take your photo and use it to create a whole new individual and you do not have any idea about it.
- Bogus information – Even though it is video chatting, it usually starts with simply typing texts first. Most of the time, the users lie about their age, gender, and location. The person your child is talking to may not have the purest of intentions and may even be a con artist waiting to strike on your innocent daughter or son.
- Bullying – Video chatting, especially those that are being broadcasted live, like Omegle, can encourage bullying. Cyberbullying is very common these days especially because most of the users remain anonymous. They feel that they are entitled to say anything they want since no one would know it was them anyway. The bullies can also spread ill rumors just so they can tarnish your child’s reputation.
- Sexual predators – These are often the most dangerous of all because they are so many of them. Each year, there are hundreds of men who are charged with being pedophiles as they lure children into trusting them on websites and IM applications, especially the ones concerned with chatting with strangers, like Omegle.
We encourage you to start a conversation about the dangers of chatting with strangers with your teens, You can always find more information about stranger chat and What is Omegle and also about the stranger chat trend at Chat with Strangers, A Dangerous Cyber Trend.