Everything a Parent Needs to Know About OMEGLE
The first lesson many parents teach their children is to not talk to strangers, and with good reason. In the real world, this can be easily avoided. However, on the internet, users are often encouraged to interact with people they don’t know. You can monitor the friends lists and privacy settings on Facebook or Instagram, but some websites exist simply for random interaction with anyone in the world.
Chatroulette gained international attention in the form of viral videos as users shared the humorous, strange, and sometimes sexual experiences they had had while on the app. But Chatroulette isn’t the only website available that offers the service of connecting everyone and anyone. A new app gaining popularity among teens is called OMEGLE.
What exactly is OMEGLE?
Launched in 2009, OMEGLE markets itself as an app where users can talk to strangers. When teens login, OMEGLE randomly pairs them with another user and allows them to chat together privately either through text, video, or using a built-in microphone. Even on OMEGLE’s website, it clearly states “predators have been known to use OMEGLE, so please be safe”. The purpose of OMEGLE is to make new friends, connect with someone with similar interests, or just to pass the time.
What will you find on OMEGLE?
OMEGLE has two choices available to users to video chat: monitored chats and unmonitored. In the monitored chats, a moderator filters out explicit content to protect minors and others from being exposed to vulgarity. However, users can easily choose to enter an unmonitored chat. These unmonitored video chats are home to explicit videos sent by strangers using the video and microphone features.
Basically, this app is used by teens to explore their sexuality and meet strangers with dangerous intentions. Teens feel safe because of the so-called anonymity provided by the app and are naive to the danger that exists when talking to other users. The conversations are known to turn to sexual topics or personal information, where teens end up revealing too much information.
The Numbers Behind OMEGLE
- A recent study released by the Pew Research Center showed that 47% of teens use video messaging apps, like OMEGLE, on a regular basis.
- Over 25,000 users are typically logged into the site at once, waiting to be matched up with a stranger to chat.
- The app gained attention immediately after launching, garnering over 150,000 views within only a month.
- Users must be above the age of 13 and have parental consent if under 18. However, these restrictions are not enforced, so users of all ages easily gain access.
How Anonymous Is It, Really?
Although users are given anonymous names to use when entering a chat with a stranger, many times the conversation quickly turns to giving out each others’ names and other personal information. In fact, once two users begin chatting, it is not unusual for them to exchange phone numbers or usernames on other direct messaging apps to keep in touch. This takes the anonymity out of OMEGLE completely.
Although teens feel safe in the privacy of a chat, OMEGLE has an option to link your Facebook account to the app and publicly share your text conversations with your Facebook friends. This means even something that teens say in a private chat can be spread all over social media.
Dangers Facing Teens on OMEGLE
OMEGLE has faced serious controversy over the years after crimes were committed by men who met young girls on the app. In 2014, a 22-year-old man used the app to chat with two local 13-year-old girls. Through the private chat, they exchanged information and arranged to meet up. After the man picked up the girls, he eventually took them back to his house and sexually assaulted both of them. The police found the girls “huddled behind a couch in the basement, crying and upset.”
Many law enforcement officers have warned that predators use OMEGLE to pressure minors into sending explicit photos. The predators then extort the victims, telling the minors they will share their photos with the victim’s friends and family if they don’t do as they’re told.
A quick look at the web analytics of OMEGLE shows that many visitors come to OMEGLE either through their desktop or mobile device after visiting pornographic websites and leave OMEGLE to revisit these sites. This is very telling as to what kind of predators lurk on OMEGLE, waiting for vulnerable minors to harm.
On top of these dangers, teens also expose themselves to cyberbullying while using OMEGA. Because video chats are used, teens may encounter other users who insult or verbally harass them based on their appearance.
To put it simply, OMEGLE is not an app that minors should be using. This app exposes kids to content that is not appropriate for their age, and many times, puts them face-to-face with predators. Parents, be sure to talk to your kids about the dangers of using OMEGLE.