Has Your Child Heard of Omegle App?
20 years ago, my father bought me and my brother a set of Walkie-Talkies for Christmas and it was possibly the greatest thing in my life up until that point. On a clear day we could speak to our buddies from a colossal 50 feet away and we could sneak up on unsuspecting foe using our special code-names. It had 2 channels and the batteries lasted a mighty 3 hours.
Nowadays, kids have devices that can allow them to speak to practically anybody else in the world over the Internet and forget about interference and static that my Walkie-Talkie was famed for. Children as young as 3 can video chat, voice chat, share photos and exchange any sort of media they want to. If I gave a teenager a Walkie–Talkie now he or she would probably laugh at me or ask where the touch screen is or try to “sync it with my Bluetooth.” Walkie-Talkies go on the shelf, next to the paddle with the rubber-band-ball, the Beanie Baby and the Yo-Yo. Smartphones and tablets are touchscreen-television-arcade-boombox-walkie-talkie times like a zillion. With the effective range covering the entire planet, everyone is now a broadcaster and receiver of communications like never before.
Whilst technological advances in communication can be a wondrous thing and allow the world to come together as a global community, how can we be sure that certain people are not taking advantage of each other in this online world? More to the point; how can we ensure that our children are safe from people who mean to do them harm? It seems like a daily occurrence that we hear of children being bullied online with some resorting to the worst possible measures in order for the bullying to stop. It is not just the online bullies we need to defend our youngsters against. Some people are so twisted that they prey on young kids and hone their skills through platforms that are unregulated and uncensored.
What can we do to keep our kids safe?
The first thing we need to do is to educate our children in online safety. More needs to be done both at school and at home to teach children how to spot a danger and report them. Secondly, websites, applications and platforms need to work harder in making sure that their sites and services are being used for their intended purposes.
We need to identify the sites and applications that pose a danger to kids and blacklist those channels in order to ensure that our children are safe from harm. If you knew that people were getting attacked at night in a certain neighborhood, you would try to avoid the place and you certainly wouldn’t allow your children to go. Internet safety has to be seen in the same way as this. Cyberspace is called “virtual reality” because it reflects reality in a virtual way.
First of all, it is not, as I was hoping it would be, a cross between an Ostrich and a Beagle. That at least would be worth a look. Unfortunately Omegle is a far more sinister creation than a strange looking animal. The homepage says ‘talk to strangers’ and I think my mother spent about 15 years telling me not to do that. The homepage also gives away a hint as to who may be using its pages as it warns people to be careful because predators have been known to use the site.
You show up (online), you turn your webcam on and you chat to total strangers. It’s as simple as that but it really isn’t simple at all. Predators can manipulate the video to make it look as though you are talking to another kid. On reading reviews I learned that people had been connected to other people who were performing sexual acts on themselves. You would think that for a site like this, the company behind Omegle would have a strict verification policy and check the real identity of people using the site but unfortunately not. It seems as if Omegle is more concerned with increasing the number of people signed up to their site than the safety of children. The front page says that is for over 18’s only, although confusingly, the terms and conditions at the bottom of the page state that you only need to be over 13 as long as you have your parents’ permission. I think I know exactly what I would say to my 13 year old if he or she asked me if they can go on this page. It starts with an N and ends with an O. Omegle seems very proud of the number of users they have; 26,000 strangers are currently online and waiting to chat. How many of those are bullies or predators or even worse? We don’t know. Omegle doesn’t even know. The safest thing for kids in this situation is to stay away from talking with strangers and keep this app away from very personal and sensitive smartphones and tablets. Remember, TeenShield allows you to block apps on Android devices!