Omegle question from a concerned Mum


Published with full permission.

Question:


Hi Kirra - My 11 year old daughter has been exposed to Omegle and I need help. There is a restricted area on the site that you can access without registration, where she was shown a boy handling his genitals. I'm devastated and am desperate to alert other parents. This happened whilst we were visiting friends with older kids. I want to prevent this from happening again and need to know how to approach my daughter...can you please share some advice? - LC

Answer: Happy to help and yes we’ve been warning parents about Omegle as it’s something of an internet cockroach; it just won’t die. The site (which has the tagline ‘talk to strangers’ on its homepage) is disturbing and a serious concern that parents need to be aware of. It was banned from the Apple App shop and from Google play years ago, and can only be accessed through its website. It's free and offers online chats with random strangers via text, voice or via video link and there is no requirement to register or identify yourself. Omegle warns users that 'predators have been known to use the site, so please be careful'. It offers no function for reporting online abuse or inappropriate behaviour on its site and instead, offers the following advice: 'Use Omegle at your own peril. Disconnect if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable'. To get started, a user outlines a few of their interests and is then connected to a random stranger to initiate either a text chat, voice chat or a video link. With around 25,000 people world-wide ready to chat with your teen (age recommendation is 18+) at any given time, and with some of these being predators and many purely there for sexual purposes, there is a cause for concern for parents. It’s important for parents to have a few strategies in place that help to establish ground rules. Here are some of our tips:

  1. Our first tip is start a conversation with your child. Without naming the app (the last thing you want to do is draw a kid's attention to an app they may not have heard of and then may go looking for) ask them a few questions like below.

  2. Is there anything to be gained from talking to strangers? Have you ever done that online? If so when and what? Discuss that they should never share real name, age, phone number, or address with people you don’t know online.

  3. Make sure you use iOs Screen Time for Apple devices or another filter to block 18+ content at home and on devices.

  4. Ban phones from the bedroom and bathroom and put healthy usage boundaries in place.

  5. Remind them if they ever see anything distressing to let you know so you can help them.

  6. Talk to children about online privacy issues, making sure they know to never to identify personal information such as their full name, address, age, school and don't ever post photos in school uniform.

  7. Make sure the young people in your care know that under no circumstances they should go and meet up with anyone they meet online..

  8. As always we encourage parents to please report harmful or illegal content here: www.esafety.gov.au https://crimestoppers.com.au If your child has been exposed to inappropriate content seek counselling by a professional should it be required or for additional support please reach out to: https://kidshelpline.com.au https://www.beyondblue.org.au

Please feel free to share in your school newsletters. P.S - Are you a teacher? We're working on an exciting online safety toolkit just for schools that will be launching soon! If you'd like your school to hear about it first click here.

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