Updated: Apr 21, 2022
With so many social media sites and apps on the market today, it can be hard for parents to keep track of what kids are doing online. It seems every few years a new, strange-sounding app captures the attention of our children: TikTok, Tumblr, Roblox, Snapchat, and more. Today, we’re going to focus on another uniquely-named chat service that you may or may not have heard of: Omegle.
So, what is Omegle? This free video-chatting website is designed specifically to pair random users with one another to chat via text or video. In theory, this might sound like an exciting and convenient way to socialize with new, unfamiliar people all around the globe. In practice, however, the lack of moderation and age verification on Omegle can create an unsafe environment for underaged users.
When visiting the homepage of Omegle, you’ll see that the site describes itself as “a great way to meet new friends, even while practicing social distancing.” Once you begin using the app, Omegle places you in an anonymous chatroom with a stranger in order to talk one-on-one. You are also given the option to be paired by interests. Omegle makes it easy for users to jump from chat to chat, as leaving one chatroom will automatically spit you into a new one, until you choose to leave the site.
Users must be 18 years of age or older to use Omegle unsupervised. Children who are 13 years of age or older may use the chat service with parental permission and supervision. But this rule, and the site’s lax moderation, makes it easy for kids to bypass these restrictions and jump right in.
If you type “Omegle” into YouTube or TikTok, plenty of videos of kids chatting with strangers pop up (this alone may be something many users are unaware of: chatting on Omegle comes with the risk of footage being recorded and distributed without the user’s knowledge or consent.) Not all of these interactions are inappropriate, of course, but unfortunately, given the platform’s configuration, kids using Omegle risk becoming potential targets for online predators. The site has also been known to expose users to sexually explicit videos and live streams, as well as explicit language, racism, extremist views, scams, and cyberbullying. For these reasons alone, it is not recommended to let young, impressionable children with underdeveloped critical thinking skills use Omegle, at least not without vigilant supervision. Given the site’s long list of pitfalls, the smartest and safest choice is to keep your underaged kids off the platform.
Omegle, to its credit, urges users never to share personal information with strangers, including their name, age, and location. As parents, it’s important to reinforce this rule and to talk to your children about the dangers that can arise from sharing any personal information with strangers online. There is a lot of crazy content out there, and it’s natural for your young ones to be curious and want to learn more. That’s why it’s more important than ever for parents to do their research, and to talk to their kids about the benefits and pitfalls that arise from living in a digital world.