Tech Tuesday is back and there's another app that parents need to know about: Omegle. It's all about anonymously chatting with strangers online. It has both a website and an app.
Omegle has the tag line "Talk to strangers!" That alone raises red flags. But there are other reasons parents should be concerned about Omegle and monitoring it closely if it is on your child's smartphone.
* Omegle itself says that it is intended for those 18 years old and specifically states on its website, "Do not use Omegle if you are under 13."
* "Don't get pervy!" is another statement posted on the Omegle homepage. Really, if that needs to be stated and highlighted as much a it is, you know two things: 1) there's a problem, and 2) You want to keep your kids far, far away.
* How it works: Omegle users can chat by text-only, which is known as Spy mode, or with video. When chats begin, they are anonymous between two strangers. A rule for parents to pass on to kids that we've touch on before in a prior post: If someone is not your friend in the physical world, he/she is probably not your friend online.
* Just because chats on Omegle start out anonymously does not mean that they stay that way. Users, particularly kids, often share personal information and the App Store description says, "there is nothing to stop you from revealing personal details if you choose to."
* There are privacy issues. Users can connect with Omegle through Facebook and it will match you with people with similar likes and that can make the info public on Facebook depending on user settings. When using the video chat option, Omegle requires that the user's computer’s IP address is made available to the stranger’s computer. Also, at the end of an Omegle chat, users can save the chat’s log and share the link meaning that any personal information shared is now controlled by a stranger. Not okay. Kids may think it's anonymous, but it's really not.
* Chat topics on Omegle are not kid-friendly. Before video chatting, a screen appears warning the user that sexual behavior is likely. The App Store says it is rated 17+ because of "Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity" and "Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor." Common Sense Media notes that "chats on Omegle are "filled with explicit sexual content, lewd language, and references to drugs, alcohol, and violence."
* The consensus is that Omegle is not safe for kids. Common Sense Media advises that "kids should be kept far away." My Crazy Good Life agrees, concluding, "I see no reason for kids of any age to be on this." Yoursphere concluded, "It’s a breeding ground for unwelcomed interaction on an international level."
Tween Us has highlighted other apps that are risky to kids and that parents should be aware of and monitoring:
To figure out how to block an app on an iphone, check out this guide on using the Restrictions feature and disabling app downloads from Yoursphere.
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