We are always advised as children to not talk to strangers for obvious reasons. But with the advent of technology, all of this is too easy and it is a difficult feat to guide youngsters to the path of safety more than ever. Online security is in question nowadays and it is recommended that guardians and parents stay on top of technology and how their ward is using the said technology to make sure that they don’t pose a threat to themselves or others.
Of course, not everything you find online is dangerous and not every strange you meet has questionable intentions. But keeping track of how the youngsters use the various apps and setups is essential as this will help you make sure that they are not falling into the hands of predators. This is where I would like to introduce Omegle, an app that is not recommended for teens and is one of those apps that youngsters should steer clear of. Let me elaborate on what exactly does it do and the reasons why Omegle is not safe for teens.
What is Omegle?
Omegle is an online platform that allows you to connect with and chat with random strangers from all over the world. It is obvious why this app might make many parents concerned since it is not a good idea to allow kids to talk with strangers. Omegle has been around for over 8 years now and has gained popularity since it was launched among people of different age groups, especially among teenagers.
You can chat with these strangers on different topics. To use Omegle, one need not provide any details as you will be identified as ‘You‘ and ‘Stranger‘.
To begin using Omegle, all you have to do is enter a topic of interest to you and Omegle will find other users who have the same interest and matches them with you and you will be connected in a chat room. The connections are totally random, meaning you will be connected with total strangers but you also have the freedom and facility to disconnect and leave the chat room whenever you want.
To add to these features, Omegle also introduced the feature of video chat in the year 2009 and users can use the webcam to see the stranger for a more ‘personal experience’. All of these might set off a few warning bells in the minds of the concerned parents or guardians but for teens, the prospect of being able to meet total strangers and to talk to them about anything they want will see entertaining and fun as they aren’t aware of the dangers lurking behind the screen.
Now, let us look into some significant statistics of Omegle.
- It was shown by a recent study which was released by the Pew Research Center that over 47% of teenagers use video messaging apps like Omegle regularly.
- Omegle gained attention immediately after its launch with over 1,50,000 views within just a month of its release.
- At any given time, over 25,000 users are logged into Omegle waiting to be matched with random strangers they can chat with.
- Though the rule exists that the users must be above 13 to use the platform and that parental consent is necessary if they are under 18, this rule is not strictly enforced at all and is easy to circumvent.
Reasons why Omegle is not safe for teens?
Even though the users can enter random names and start using the site without giving out any information, the conversation can quickly turn friendly enough to exchange real details like names and phone numbers.
It is also not uncommon when two people are chatting to exchange their data so that they can stay in touch through other social media which makes the anonymous feature in Omegle totally pointless.
Besides this, the site also has an option to link one’s Facebook account to the app and to publicly share your texts with your Facebook friends which means that everything that a teen may say in a private chat can be shared all over social media with little effort.
From the perspective of a parent, allowing kids to talk to strangers can be scary enough as they are not mentally mature enough to make wise decisions and identify the risk of sharing personal information with total strangers. This itself is a good reason why Omegle is not safe for teens.
More than that, with the feature of video chatting induced lately, the site poses an even bigger risk than ever before as this gives teens a forum to chat with strangers from anywhere in the world without worrying about using too much data and going over the chat limits. The immaturity of teens coupled with shady strangers masked as nice people may force them to perform outrageous acts on video chats which can be used for blackmail, shared via social media and used for any sort of heinous things that will affect your kid’s physical and mental well being as well as their future.
There are also two video chat modes in Omegle – monitored and unmonitored. The video chat feature requires your computer’s IP address which is made available to the stranger’s computer and requires a direct connection between your computer and the other person’s computer. Also, the warning received when you launch
Unmonitored video chat is itself scary: “Because this section is unmonitored, you are more likely to encounter sexual behavior. As with the rest of the Omegle, the users in this section are solely responsible for their own behavior. If you are under 18 or if you would prefer not to use this section, press cancel. By pressing OK, you affirm that you are at least 18 years old.” I am sure that warning speaks for itself and I am sure don’t have to elaborate on how unsafe this feature is for the youngsters.
At the end of Omegle chat, the users have the option to save the chat log and share the chat’s link in social media. So no matter how private you think your conversations are, the contents of the chat including any explicit talks, personal information, pictures and anything else you may have shared with the stranger can be easily made public without your knowledge. Many law enforcement officers have warned that Omegle is used by pedophiles and predators to pressure minors into sending explicit photographs and then use these photographs for blackmailing them into doing what they are told.
Check out this web analytics of Omegle which shows that most of the visitors of this site come to Omegle through their desktop or mobile phones after they have visited adult websites and also that they leave Omegle to revisit these sites. This gives a solid piece of evidence to what kinds of people use Omegle. Besides all these threats, teens and minors are also exposed to cyberbullying and the video chats in which strangers may insult and harass them based on how they look.
Omegle has faced a lot of serious controversy over the years after crimes were committed using this platform. In the year 2014, a 22-year-old man used Omegle to chat with two local girls of 13 years of age and lured them to his house through private chat. They exchanged information and arranged a meet up from where the man picked up the girls and took them back to his house where he sexually assaulted both of them. The police found the girls “huddled behind a couch in the basement, crying and upset”. Thus, Omegle is not an app that teens should be using and it presents them with contents that are inappropriate for their ages and puts them in perils that may affect their lives forever.