New sites and Apps that pose a Cyber Safety risk to our students are released daily however Omegle is a site that has slipped under the radar for years now and it is frightening!!!
Omegle can be best described as a free online website that allows users to socialise via text or video without the need to register or identify yourself. Students love the anonymous element to Omegle as they are referred to as Stranger 1 or Stranger 2. Pedophiles also love these features!!!
You must be at least 13 years old to create an Omegle account and parental permission is suggested for people under 18. But hey, most kids ignore this anyway just have a look at how many under 13 year olds have Facebook or Instagram accounts it is alarming. Omegle doesn’t store your personal information/chats or details so you can easily play the “stranger” card and that’s the “hook” for Omegle. An additional feature if you choose is to provide your Facebook details such as likes and topics allowing you to connect with people of similar interests.
What makes Omegle appealing to students is the ability connect with so called “strangers”. The “stranger” experience and thrill students/Kids get from Omegle can be amplified when they provide their email and filter the strangers via .edu domains. This is really popular in some of the schools I support. Students are using Omegle on their school network and text chatting with other students using their school domain but they don’t know each other’s identity unless they disclose it. The students I spoke with think this is safe and a lot of fun! I could only imagine the types of conversations being had on this type of service. The message I convey to these students is "Just because it is anonymous doesn't make it safe". In fact I think people would be more willing to chat about inappropriate content or bully others when they are anonymous!
The real threat Omegle presents to our students and kids is the random video chat feature. Especially when the site itself highlights on their home page “PREDATORS HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO USE OMEGLE SO PLEASE BE CAREFUL”!!! Gees I can’t wait to sign my kids up to that website!!!!
The live video chat is has the same concept as the text feature. Any user can randomly connect with a stranger via video and begin a conversation. Strangers can be filtered via common interests and wait in a room to be connected to a like minded stranger, pedophile, nudist, lonely person, prankster, catfish or scammer.
I spent sometime online waiting in the so called monitored Omegle video chat rooms to see the types of people who I would connect and also see how random this website really is. I was shocked with what I found, from a group of boys in the US looking to trash talk anyone and everyone just from their appearance to seedy blokes who appear on screen with their shirts off then exit the chat as soon as they see another adult male. I also found Omegle is a gold mine for lonely and bored teenagers looking for something and someone to talk to. This could be a good thing for some students/kids however I think the potential harm is greater.
Omegle also has an 18+ Adult section. I will let your imagination guess what happens here. What I was surprised with was how easy it would be for a person of any age to enter this section of the site. No verification, no security it is just open slather. Omegle also warn that the adult 18+ area is a not moderated and you are also more likely to encounter sexual behaviour!!! Happy Days!!
Parents and teachers please be aware of Omegle and discuss the cyber safety dangers and risks when using such a service with your children and students.