Chat apps can be useful for maintaining social ties, meeting people from different cultures, and exploring new perspectives on the world. They can also be, for families, a complete mess and possibly even dangerous without rules and parental control software.
One, Omegle, is a cause for particular concern. Here’s what parents need to know.
What Is Omegle?
Omegle, founded in 2009, can really be summed up by its own marketing copy: “Talk with strangers!” The site is a chat app, available on the web and through browsers, that requires no login or other credentials, and will match you with another random user logged into the site from anywhere in the world. It offers both text and video chat. Since it was first launched in 2009, the site has added “interest” tags that allow users to be connected based on interests. There’s also “spy mode,” where you can ask two questions of two users paired in chat to start a conversation and then observe that conversation as a non-participant.
Some video chat channels on the site are monitored to prevent certain content from being spread on the platform; others are not. This has generally led to the site becoming a sort of Wild West of chat, and even the site’s CEO has expressed disappointment at how Omegle has been used.
Is Omegle Safe For Kids?
While no chat site is perfectly kid-safe, Omegle stands out as particularly lacking in this respect. There’s nothing on the site or its apps that resembles basic privacy and safety tools, let alone parental controls. The one real security function is the site’s randomness.
Cyberbullying, online grooming, and other high-profile concerns are generally perpetrated by somebody the child knows in real life, such as a schoolmate, and are centered around a place where it’s easy to find your family.
While Omegle will ban users for cruelty and misbehavior, even that is ineffectual as it only bans them based on their IP addresses. That can easily be gotten around with commonly available software such as a virtual private network (VPN). Besides, alternatives built on the platform are freely available as well, so it largely just defers the problem of abusive users to other places.
How Can I Make Omegle Safer?
Like any chat app, there are some steps parents should take.
- Educate kids about cyberbullying, hacking and social engineering, and online grooming, and to come to you if a user is making them uncomfortable or fearful.
- Familiarize yourself with the app, by using it and getting a sense of the controls and settings.
- Set strict timetables and rules with parental control software, such as only using it through an app or browser, and blocking alternate apps from being downloaded.
- Talk regularly with them about what they’re seeing and hearing.
- Set physical rules as well, such as charging phones away from bedrooms.
Limiting access and enforcing clear rules will be your best steps towards limiting the dangers from Omegle and other chat apps. Parental control software can help you keep rules in place and guide kids to a healthier relationship with screens. To learn more, try it for free!