What Parents Should Know About Omegle

This week continues my regular series “What Parents Should Know.” This week’s question comes from a concerned parent in Hawaii. Have something you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer: info@joshgunderson.com

If you were to stop me on the street and ask “Josh, should my teenager be on Omegle?”  I would more-than-likely start laughing while trying to get the word “no” out.  The site’s slogan is “Talk To Strangers!” At 28-years old, if I were to tell my mom that I was using a web site with that slogan, I’m pretty sure she’d ground me. I don’t even live with her!

ID-10067793

Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Launched in 2008 by a 18-year-old, Vermonter, Leif K-Brooks, Omegle is a a free online chat website that allows users to communicate with strangers without registering. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously using the handles “You” and “Stranger”. In early 2009 the site added video conferencing feature in addition to chat.

In compliance with COPPA, the site requires users to be at least 13 year old to use the service but as it collect no personal data, it’s not that hard to get around that requirement. It also asked that users under the age of 18 get their parents’ permission before using the site.  Cause that’ll happen.

omegle002

This warning features prominently on Omegle’s home page. It’s also enough to tell me I don’t want to be on this site. You should feel the same way.

 

Stick with me here, it gets worse.

The site, according to its privacy policy, participants’ IP addresses are recorded and stored for up to 120 days. They record the following: “the time your chat began, your IP address, a randomly-generated ID tag assigned to your computer, your chat partner’s IP address, and your chat partner’s randomly-generated ID tag.” Why? For “purposes of law enforcement.” Is anyone else seeing the red flag’s here?

Because of complaints, the site now had moderators keeping an eye on chats to make sure that only appropriate things are happening. However, one can easily click on the option to join an unmoderated chat if you pinky-swear that you’re over 18. How do they check this? Well, this nifty window pops up, and then you just click OK.

Trying to escape the moderators? Just click on the link for unmoderated chat. They ask you to confirm that you're old enough to be there without asking for any information to verify.

Trying to escape the moderators? Just click on the link for unmoderated chat. They ask you to confirm that you’re old enough to be there without asking for any information to verify.

 

Once a chat is ended, each user has the option of saving the transcript (when it’s saved, it lives on Omegle’s servers forever). Free software has also allowed people to trap and record video conferences- many of which can be found on tame sites, like YouTube.  An image search on Google gave me enough reasons to never go near the site.

I strongly encourage parents to have a conversation with their kids about sites like Omegle. Remind them that talking to strangers, even with a computer screen and, potentially, hundreds of miles between you, is never a smart idea. It is so easy to give out loads of personal information without even realizing it. Also remind them that the internet is forever and any videos that may be perceived as inappropriate can have a lasting effect on their future.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning speaker specializing in Internet Safety and Cyberbullying. For more information on Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

Advertisements

About Josh Gunderson

Josh Gunderson is a comedian and professional actor in educational theatre who firmly believes that learning does not have to be boring. Specializing in issues surrounding Internet Safety and Cyber Bullying.

Posted on July 12, 2013, in Internet Safety, Parenting, Social Media, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Nice article. As a parent of a couple of younger children just starting to get interested in the Internet, I browse the web occasionally looking for what I need to look out for. I also work for an Internet Security Appliance firm and I’ve been on the Internet since pretty much day 1.

    I spent about 3 hours on Omegle tonight. I don’t think I encountered many people older than 20 and certainly as young as 13 (of course, any of them could have been lying). The site was 95% male of which 90% were only looking to talk to females. Of 5% females on this site, 90% of those were someone trying to get you to skype or kik photos or asking you if you’re horny and want to video chat.

    The kicker is no real verification of age for anything on this site. You just click a link to get to the un-moderated video area which I assure you is 95% naked men masturbating with penis in hand and close up. That is no exaggeration. Most don’t show their faces, so age is tough to decipher.

    The moderated video area was full of kids. If I wanted to flash my goods to any of them it would have been no challenge at all.

    If your kids or young teens are on this site, they shouldn’t be.

  1. Pingback: What Parents Should Know About Kik Messenger | Have You Met Josh?

  2. Pingback: Breaking Down Digital Walls | What Parents Should Know About Ask.FM

  3. Pingback: What Parents Should Know About Periscope | Breaking Down Digital Walls

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: