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In Cyber Safety, Internet Safety Trends, Parents, Social Media

A Chat with Strangers: Fun or Dangerous?

Stranger Danger

Parents are often quick to remind their children to never start a chat with strangers out in public or in the street, but what about the Internet? Thanks to advances in technology, children now have the opportunity to meet and converse with strangers of all ages, nationalities, and different behaviors and intentions. If you’re familiar with Omegle chat then you you probably know your children can video chat with random strangers too. Here is why Omegle chat is not good for your kid.  

|SEE ALSO: What Makes (and Breaks) a Compulsive Liar|

What Is Omegle Chat?

A popular website known as Omegle offers a platform for users to start 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 might believe it’s secure to share information with strangers.

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 Omegle chats 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 Omegle chats are where a random question is given to two strangers and they are encouraged to talk about the topic. Questions are based on suggestions from fellow users and can be silly and weird, such as ‘why do ladybugs have spots,’ to more personal questions like ‘when did you lose your virginity.’

Omegle recently released an app that provides both video and text Omegle chats 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.

Age Limit on 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 that 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 it enables them to scale to the numbers they need to make their business viable.

Learn about cybercrimes and how to keep yourself and your children protected!

Monitoring on Omegle Chat

Omegle provides no guarantees that any video or text chats will be monitored. There is a warning at the bottom of the website that Omegle 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.

Omegle chats in text will only be monitored in the event that an Omegle IP address has been flagged for spam. Users are essentially free to write, ask, or talk about anything and everything they wish to discuss.

Video Chat on 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 13 to 99.

Is Nudity Present on Omegle Video Chat?

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 then remove them. More often than not, users can start the chats out completely nude and already engaging in sexual acts. So, at any given moment, someone using Omegle video chat might simply end up with an Omegle nude video situation.

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 Omegle IP addresses to get around an existing ban
  • Nudity present at the start of a chat before a monitor can close down the chat

Text Chats Protection 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 or engage in what is called an “Omegle nude video.” 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 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.

 

Other Concerns

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 chat with 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 the 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 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. Your child can be suddenly faced with an “Omegle nude video.”

A chat with strangers is not pure fun at all times. a chat with strangers can be an open door for a child predator to come in and damage the lives of children. Teach your children the possible dangers of chatting with strangers and the necessary precautions they should keep in mind.

Omegle Chat 101

Long before Snapchat, there was Omegle chat. In many ways, strangers were connecting to others via text and video on the Omegle website, which is quite similar to Chat Roulette. On a busy night, tens of thousands of people sign on. Omegle has helped to form lasting friendships between strangers who live on the opposite sides of the country, but many conversations have happened on the Omegle video chat site that are long forgotten.

How do you video chat on Omegle?

You sign on and enable your computer’s webcam. You’re paired up with a random person, and you can act silly via the cam and supplement your visuals with text on the other side of the screen. If your chat is interesting, it can go for hours and you can eventually trade phone numbers or other contact information. If you’re just not getting along with your chatting partner on Omegle, you can simply sign out of the chat room and move on to the next person.

In 2014, you can now connect your Facebook account or enter interests to find users with whom you’ll share more in common. This increases the likelihood of having an entertaining chat, but sometimes it’s the fact that you have little in common with your chat partner that you wind up venturing into conversations that broaden your world view.

Omegle chat also has an option where you can ask a question and watch two people battle out the answer. This so-called spy mode enables you to watch chat without participating yourself. Users can choose to answer or leave the chat.

Omegle allows strangers to easily meet and connect. You didn’t need to think of a clever nickname. It was all about you, your words and your face on the camera. There is a sense of anonymity because there are no profiles. The conversations are always listed as between “Me” and ‘”Stranger.” This offers a sense of anonymity.

Unfortunately, wherever there is anonymity, there is also the potential for abuse. Sometimes it was innocuous, like a fleeting chat with someone who made an inappropriate joke. However, strangers can use Omegle to hurl insults at one another. Fortunately, you can just as easily sign off.

Webcam chatting adds another method for abusive people to take advantage of you, and this is one reason why anonymous chatting websites like Omegle aren’t necessarily safe for minors; an omegle nude chat comes to mind. Chatters would sign in to receive inappropriate messages and, even worse, people doing things on cam that were not suitable for all eyes. Even adults found themselves inundated with this, and it only amused people who trolled Omegle video chat.

To combat this, Omegle now states that basic chat must be kept kid-friendly. There is now an unmoderated Omegle video chatting section, but it doesn’t require age verification or for users to register for an account. You can opt to disable your cam and microphone in unmoderated chat, but many of the users are looking for adult conversation and cam, so they skip over chat partners who turn off their camera in Omegle’s unmoderated section.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Omegle — and the reason it’s not suitable for children — is the lack of options to report another user. However, Omegle does have an algorithm that both looks for inappropriate text content in moderated chat as well as video chat on Omegle. The system looks for profanity and nudity. However, it’s easy to bypass these filters simply by logging in to the unmoderated section, which also includes links to adult websites and cam chat sites.

Parents are justified to be worried about the type of content their little ones may experience on anonymous video chatting sites like Omegle free chat, and adding them to a blacklist on the router, browser or Internet security program to restrict access to the site. There is essentially no way for parents to make sure their children are safe on Omegle other than watching the screen while the child is chatting.

Learn how to keep your computer safe for children’s use.

However, the issues with Omegle aren’t just limited to whether it’s a family-friendly website. If you want to keep in touch with someone, you had to move outside Omegle because there was no way to guarantee that you’ll be match up with them once again. This might make Omegle a decent way to meet new people, but it’s not a great way to keep in touch.

Omegle in the News

Omegle has even been an atmosphere where most nefarious things can happen. Recently, an anonymous chatter used Omegle to send a message about Julissa Romero, a California teen who has been missing for April 2014. The message pointed law enforcement to the supposed location of the girl’s body. However, law enforcement confirmed that no body existed at the coordinates posted by the anonymous user, who is as of yet unidentified thanks to Omegle’s anonymous system. The police responded that the message was a cruel hoax and that Julissa Romero was accounted for.

It’s not the first time Omegle has made the news for less than savory reasons, either. Earlier this year (2014), a couple from Minneapolis, Minnesota were tried for the creation and distribution of child pornography. It was revealed during the investigation that Omegle detected child pornography and reported the users to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Law enforcement was able to track the Omegle IP address to the couple, who are awaiting a federal trial in December.

Omegle has also led to other tips, including one about a college student who planned to “shoot up’ his campus. Zachary Hess, a 19-year-old who attended New Mexico State University, would talk to strangers Omegle connected him with. At least once, the young man threatened gun violence toward others at his school. Omegle chat records show that the conversation, which happened shortly after Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree, made Hess’s char partner uncomfortable. He copied his screen and shared it with the school, who then passed it on to the cops.

The case escalated to the FBI who began investigating. The authorities arrived at the apartment from where the message originated on May 29th, the day before Hess had intended to go on a shooting spree. Everyone in the apartment denied making the threats, and Hess said he hadn’t recently used Omegle. However, digital forensic evidence showed otherwise. Fortunately, Hess did not do anything in three days’ time like he threatened.

In the following days, Hess confessed to making the threat but said it was a joke. In fact, he was in the hospital at the time when he made the threat. Over the next three months, the FBI interviewed Hess before finally arresting him for his threat three months after the fact. The young student’s charges allude to man hours lost by the FBI and the university he attended.

In the end, Hess was found not to be a threat, and perhaps that best sums up what Omegle is all about. The veil of anonymity that Omegle face chat provides leads people to say things they wouldn’t otherwise do. Sometimes those things are funny, and sometimes they’re sexy. They’re often thoughtless, which is why Omegle chat users have to protect themselves from the person on the other end of the line. You never know who it might be on the other side of that Omegle chat. We are not saying don’t go on Omegle chat, we are just telling you how to think and what to expect when on an Omegle chat.

In conclusion, it is true that a free chat omegle situation is quite brilliant for teens looking to discover the world, but the dangers are immense. it is time for your teens to learn about weighing their options between fun and safety. 

Wondering if there are other sites providing the same service? Here is a list!

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