Omegle – Talk About Strange…
Omegle is a website with a weirdly wide appeal. Boasting the logo “Talk to Strangers!”, Omegle is instant messaging with a twist: it randomly pairs users–total strangers–for the purposes of having a chat. Ostensibly. It was designed and launched by an 18-year-old. Enough said.
The website's terms and conditions specify that children under 13 are not allowed to use the service, and young people under 18 must ask for parental consent. Of course, there's no way to verify the user's age or parental permission.
This strange site exerts a peculiar pull for teens despite all the times we parents have warned our kids against talking to strangers. What about the stranger-danger lessons at school? Maybe in kids' minds, half the “fun” of Omegle is the adrenaline rush that comes with pushing boundaries and taking risks. To some young people, it's just a bit of harmless fun.
The trouble is Omegle lulls kids into a false sense of safety because this site makes them feel anonymous. Users are given the mandatory handles “you” and “stranger.” It presents as a place where “no one will ever know.” Anonymity on the internet, however, is always an illusion. Visitors to Omegle are known to use webcams; screenshots are possible; and that's just two ways things could go wrong.
A quick Google search of “reviews of Omegle” will yield results that show the tone of chat that happens at Omegle. I won't post links in this instance because of the unwholesome nature of the material.
Controversy surrounds the website. If stranger-chat isn't creepy enough, take Omegle's “spy mode” for a little mental spin. Still in beta, this option offers a three-way conversation, in which one user poses a topic and two other users chat about it while the first person watches. Wait…watches?
Omegle has no filters for language, and it is possible (“likely”, according to one reviewer) to encounter nudity and cameras. Its lack of moderation makes it an unsafe option for young people. While the conversations are apparently anonymous, the site can be linked to your Facebook account. I don't know about you, but for me there is a glaring incongruence between the concept of anonymity and Facebook.
Parents, watch out for Omegle apps appearing on your child's devices (iPods, tablets and phones). If you have enabled iPad restrictions for adding apps, your child will have to ask you before purchasing or adding any app. Similarly, for laptops and desktops, check the browser history for Omegle.com.
If you find evidence of visits to this site, it's time for a little chat, face-to-face…