As parents, we want to expose our children to diverse people, places, and experiences. It’s these interactions that help kids solidify their values and motivations. Of course, there are many different ways to meet new people, such as playing sports, joining a club, and virtual hangouts like cooperative computer programs like alternate reality games. And, uh, remember AOL chatrooms? The last one may be all but obsolete today, but other technology-based meeting spaces have since emerged. One of the ways people (and especially young people) connect now? Omegle. If you’re scratching your head in bewilderment, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with a full explainer of this popular video-chatting platform.
As a mother, panic sirens may be going off in your head right now. Is your kid Omegle’ing? Who’s on the other end? How come you’re just learning about it?! Admittedly, the audience on this site runs the gamut from honest introverts looking for genuine human connection to predatory weirdos. So here is the good, bad, and ugly truth about Omegle you need to know as a parent.
What is Omegle?
Started in 2009 by a man named Leif K. Brooks, Omegle is a free website where strangers from all over the world hang out one-on-one and interact via chat or video. Teens and young adults are drawn to it because there’s no need to register, and you can leave the conversation at any time. The website seemed lost in the ether of early ’00s nostalgia until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In 2020, it surged in popularity across all age groups. The site grew globally from 34 million visits a month in January 2020 to 65 million in January 2021. It’s become mainstream again with YouTubers and TikTokers using Omegle to create content while being stuck at home during quarantine. Videos tagged with “Omegle” on TikTok have racked up over 9 billion views!
Omegle can be a great place to meet some genuine people from all over the world, and our kids have felt so isolated throughout the pandemic. Should we begrudge them the chance at authentic connections?
For some, sites like Omegle truly have helped them feel less alone. You can find stories all over the internet of fellow humans suffering from anxiety, depression, trauma, and negative feelings who found a friend on Omegle. If your child is also feeling this way and is lucky enough to be paired with another like-minded individual looking for someone to talk to with no judgment, it can be a healing experience for both participants. Besides, sometimes it’s just easier to share vulnerable feelings with anonymous people. Omegle can act as a support group and a source of inspiration. People also jump on Omegle to practice their language skills or because they saw a funny video on TikTok and want to create funny content of their own.
Pro Tip: Users can add their interests to their profile, and Omegle will look for someone with similar interests. We find this to be the best way of improving the odds of having positive interactions. For example, setting “TikTok” as a common interest does result in a more PG-13 experience. Two or three words is enough — otherwise, it will take Omegle too long to find a match.
A lot of kids get exposed to this site at a friend’s house. Sometimes they’re bored, looking for a laugh, want to prank a stranger, meet girls, or any number of other reasons kids do the things they do.
Here’s who they may actually meet on Omegle (likely in this order):
- Masturbating males
- Blank/off-cam (most likely male)
- Non-masturbating male
- Ads (often for porn)
Is it possible your child can have pure non-sexualized fun with a stranger on this website? Definitely. Is it likely? Not so much.
Omegle states, “Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.” The red flags don’t get any bigger or redder than that.
Need one more? The disclaimer at the bottom of the Omegle homepage says in tiny print, “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 their own behavior. Use Omegle at your own peril. Disconnect if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable. You may be denied access to Omegle for inappropriate behavior or for any other reason.”
Omegle is not perfectly safe. In fact, it can be downright ugly. Your child could encounter sexually explicit and racist messages. If matched with a predator, your child might be asked inappropriate questions about their body or pressured to exchange nude pictures, remove clothing, or meet in person.
What are some safety tips for using Omegle?
Here are some suggestions to help keep children safe from predators on Omegle.
- Educate your child. Explain the types of people they will encounter on this site (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Empower them to make smart choices while using the site.
- Omegle chats are anonymous, and they do not recommend telling someone who you really are. Do not share personal information such as email address, school name, the street you live on, your favorite local hangout, or your phone number. Predators can use all of this information to identify you.
- Do not give away your Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or other profiles.
Just because a person on Omegle acts nice does not mean they are nice. There are entire Reddit threads devoted to teaching men how to act nice on Omegle just to get girls.
- Never access links sent by the person chatting with you. Or if links pop up while you’re online, ignore them. Avoid venturing off to external pages because odds are they’re a hacker trying to phish you or infect your computer with malware. No matter how reputable or legit a URL may seem, do not click on it.
- Disconnect as soon as someone misbehaves.
- An IP address is like the digital home address from your computer. A predator can find your town and country using the IP address. So, if your teen is using Omegle, they should also use a VPN (or a virtual private network) which will replace their actual IP address with a VPN IP address from the location of your choice.
- Omegle can also be blocked altogether with software or a router. Many free programs exist that can block websites.
How to Get Unbanned From Omegle
Once you get banned from Omegle, the system knows your IP address, so you can’t sign in with the same one. You can, however, sign up with a VPN provider or app and sign in. Then connect to a server and change your IP. You’ll be able to join Omegle under a new IP address and user name!
Can Omegle conversations be traced?
Calls cannot be saved on Omegle, but that doesn’t mean people can’t use software to record the conversation. Users can do this through third-party devices, so nothing is truly ever private. Remind your child that while this may be a randomized stranger chat room, these conversations can still be recorded. Continue to talk to and teach them to be mindful of their actions and what they say all the time. Discuss safety measures while using the platform.
Omegle isn’t the only site that allows you to chat with strangers. Try these out to see if they’re a good fit for you.
- HIYAK: HIYAK is available on Apple and Android and allows you to video with strangers from all over the world.
- CamSurf: CamSurf lets you filter your video matches by location and language. It’s easy to use and pairs you with random matches as well.
- ChatRandom: ChatRandom has a bunch of cool features and lets you filter video matches by country and gender. It’s also known for its super-fast connection.