If you haven’t heard of the popular video chat website, Omegle, let me enlighten you. To start, they advertise their platform as an easy way to talk to strangers; a parent’s dream come true! Anyone can head to their website, click start chat and instantly be matched-up with strangers at random. Users can input “interests” so that they are matched-up with people who have inputted similar topics with the hopes of having something in common. Omegle is free, does not require any registration and is available to anyone with an internet connection.
Sites like Omegle have been primarily used for adult content without the protection of young eyes in mind. Despite their website’s disclaimer, stating that video chat rooms are monitored and users need to keep it clean, their terms state that “human behavior is fundamentally uncontrollable, that the people you encounter on Omegle may not behave appropriately, and that they are solely responsible for their own behavior.”
When joining a chat, your child has a few different chat options. They can join Text only, Text only: Spy (question) mode, Video, Video: Unmoderated section or Video: Adult. Text only and Video are said to be monitored to ensure the content is appropriate for all users. Text only: Spy (question) mode creates a chat of three people, but the third person is invisible. This person submits a question for the other two to discuss but does not partake in the conversation. Video: Unmoderated section increases your child’s likelihood of seeing sexual content and requires that you confirm you are 18+ years old. Video: Adult guarantees that users in this category will see sexual content and must be 18+ years old.
Omegle’s homepage even states that predators are known to use their platform and they suggest that users be careful. Before entering any chat room, your child is agreeing that they are 13+ years old with a parent’s permission or at least 18+ years old.
Omegle launched in 2009, promoting an easy way to meet and talk with new people. However, the younger generation’s motive has shifted and they are using it to interact with famous online influencers and celebrities. Popular content creators, usually on TikTok, will post that they will be live on Omegle and are looking to talk with fans. They will provide their followers with a specific term (usually their username) that can be entered as an “interest” to increase their chances of matching up. This encourages young kids to hop on with the hopes of getting some one-on-one time with these famous individuals. So, if your child’s favorite TikToker said they would be live on Omegle, do you think any of the potential dangers will stop them from going on? Probably not.
Dangerous instances with online predators are somewhat out of your control and not the fault of your child. However, if your child chooses to use Omegle, you can encourage certain safety practices to protect them and keep these potentially dangerous situations from escalating. We believe your parenting approach, the age of your children and the expectations that you set for them are completely up to you. If you do not feel familiar enough with Omegle’s platform and want some ideas for safe practices, here are a few options:
Visiting sites like Omegle can be fun and innocent but they may also open children up to communication with dangerous strangers and expose them to explicit content. Teaching your child about the dangers of this type of online interaction and setting clear expectations for how you expect them to handle certain situations will increase their likelihood of having a positive experience. You can also prioritize the importance of open communication between you and your child if they have experiences that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. They can use this awareness to be as preventative as possible while enjoying this outlet of online communication. Safe practices will not guarantee that your child will not be exposed to mature content, but it can help them become conscientious when joining online chat rooms and comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns.