With a tagline promoting connection with online strangers, the notion of Omegle goes against the grain of what many of us would have been told growing up about steering clear from ‘stranger danger’.
What is Omegle?
Omegle is an online anonymous chat service that connects two strangers via text and/or video. Omegle is not app-based, therefore can be easily searched and used on a web browser which is optimised for mobile. It is free to join and does not require an account to start using. Omegle provides users the additional option to include their interests if they wish to be connected with a stranger who shares similar interests. Then with two clicks of a button you are able to text and/or video chat with a stranger.
Is Omegle safe for kids?
In short, no. Given that Omegle is designed for users 18+, children are not technically permitted to use it. However, as there is no way for a user to prove their age, it is very simple for young people to connect in this space. eSafety reported that a large portion of young people (aged 12-17) have been exposed to inappropriate content online with nearly 50% of them having seen sexual content and a staggering 57% witnessing real violence and disturbing behaviour in online spaces. Unlike popular social media and online gaming platforms, Omegle states that it is moderated but that ‘no moderation is perfect’, and therefore places onus on users to be responsible for their actions. Stipulated in the Terms of Service, Omegle does not take any responsibility for content shared in chats and does not owe its users any duty in protecting them from the acts of fellow users. It is safe to assume that it is more than likely that a user will be exposed to content that is hurtful, disturbing or inappropriate.
Who might a user CONNECT with on Omegle?
As the premise of Omegle is to be connected with strangers, users can communicate with anyone at random. Whilst not everyone online is dangerous, it is important to note that what is popular with young people is also popular with people who have malintent. Scammers and hackers have been said to frequent Omegle and target the vulnerable with scams that appear to be legitimate and authentic. There have been cases where users have had their Facebook accounts hacked and images collected which have then been used to be extorted. This is also a space where phishing scams have taken place with users sending out fake emails or foreign links to pose as big-name companies to then collect sensitive, personal information about someone else.
It is also important to note that, unfortunately, as this website is popular with young people it is not unimaginable for a user to be connected with a predator in this space. With how easy it is for a user to hide their identity, this opens up the digital door for predatory behaviours to take place with security of anonymity being a drawcard for these malintent users.
What CONTENT might a user see?
With a third of online content being deemed as hurtful or inappropriate, Omegle is no exception and is probably more likely to contain content that falls into this category. With the option to video chat with a stranger, it is up to the user’s discretion what they choose to do in this space. Whilst Omegle prohibits sexual behaviour and profanity, it does not stop it from occurring on their platform so it comes at a ‘user beware’ standpoint.
It not uncommon for platforms and/or users to push their political views in this space too. As a test-drive for how Omegle works, we found that upon the homepage we saw political propaganda about something occurring overseas. This content can be seen by all users who have entered onto the website on any given day and is just one example of the type of content users might be exposed to.
What data is COLLECTED on a user?
Since there is no need to register and users can remain anonymous, first and last name are not essential to use Omegle. However, Omegle holds the rights to store a saved chatlog within the last 12 months which may contain personal information of a user depending on the content of the conversation. In addition to the saved chatlog, Omegle also collects data on the following:
- Geolocation (geographical location of a person or device accessing the platform)
- Sensory data (snapshots of video streaming for moderation purposes)
- Internet activity (browsing and search history and interactions on the platform)
Are there parental controls?
No. Omegle does not have parental controls operating in its services as it is designed for users 18+. It refers users to places where they can embed external safety software which can be used to help filter and monitor the content exposed to online.
5 proactive tips to keep your child safe
- Use the safety software on your device to block unwanted websites, such as Omegle.
- Create space for conversation with your teen about the associated risks involved in using this platform and what to do if you come across them, for example, communicating with strangers and exposure to inappropriate content.
- Develop family protocols/expectations for using new, unfamiliar websites before using them.
- Explore safety software (free and paid) that can be set up to filter websites family members can access as well as monitor online activity.
- Discuss help-seeking strategies for what a young person can do to get help if things go wrong for them online, such as talking to a trusted adult, speaking to a trained counsellor at Kids Helpline or seeking further support from eSafety.