How would you feel about your children using a website that has this warning on its home page in the first paragraph? “Predators have been known to use Omegle.”
Omegle is a website set up specifically for someone to talk to a stranger without the usual registration of people’s age, sex and location. The age limit is 13 but because there is no registration process or age verification, it is easy for even younger children to access the site by pretending to be less than 13 years old.
A little lower on Omegle’s home page it states; “Understand that human behavior is fundamentally uncontrollable, that the people you encounter on Omegle may not behave appropriately, and that they are solely responsible for own behavior. Use Omegle at your own peril.”
Omegle offers text or video chats but everything that is said or streamed on the site is stored in a server for about four months. You can choose monitored or unmonitored chats but Omegle warns that users are more likely to be on the receiving end of explicit and inappropriate content when they select the unmonitored option.
So why on earth would anyone use Omegle or allow their children to do so? The tagline is ‘Talk to strangers!’ and it is touted as a great way to meet new friends as a fun, new experience. However, it is difficult to imagine that even the most naive of us won’t see a problem with our children talking to strangers online.
Glasshouse Christian College always blocks sites like this but I’ve become aware that some of our students are on this site at home or on their mobile devices and I’m deeply disturbed by the danger they have put themselves in.
I am also aware that there are many other alternatives to Omegle. We have tried to block as many as possible but more spring up all the time. A google search will reveal the names of these alternatives.
The most challenging part of parenting in the technological age is being aware of sites like this and then knowing what to do about them. For example, Omegle has been around for more than a decade but I wonder how many of you have heard about it?
Many of your children would have already heard and even accessed this website, however, many may not have and the experts warn that it is not good to draw attention to it for fear that their interests will be piqued. It is good however to open up a conversation with your son or daughter’s online habits and remind them that if they do see anything that disturbs them online to come and talk to you about this, that the internet is a dangerous place and they must not disclose personal information about themselves or those they know to anyone on the internet.
Earlier in the year, we planned to bring you Australian’s foremost expert on cybersafety Susan McLean, however, our plans were thwarted by COVID-19. Six months later, we decided that cybersafety is too important to wait any longer so we have booked Ms McLean for a series of Zoom sessions with our students and a special one at night for our parents.
Susan is a sought-after presenter and former detective who worked on Operation Argus. She is a government advisor and is certified by the Office of the Safety Commissioner as a provider of high-quality Cybersafety education to schools throughout Australia. She speaks to more than 70,000 young people and thousands of teachers and parents each year. You can learn more about Susan and her organisation at CyberSafety Solutions.
The cybersafety parent session will take place on Thursday 29 October between 6 and 7:30pm via Zoom. Glasshouse Christian College is sponsoring the event from a special grant so that we can provide it free to our parents. More details will be coming soon but please bookmark this event in your calendar now.
Meanwhile, remember there are a lot of tools available for parents navigating the online world and I would like to recommend the Safe on Social as a good resource.
Please don’t let ignorance be your excuse.
Mike Curtis, Principal