The Dangers of Omegle

Zarina Yunis, Editor-in-Chief

From childhood, we have had it drilled into our brains: Do not talk to strangers online and certainly do not reveal any information. However, a site recently growing in popularity called Omegle encourages just the opposite, and the minute you hop onto its one-on-one video-conferencing software, everything you may have learned about Internet safety is thrown out the window. Because of the dangers this platform poses, teenagers must be especially cautious and not trust the site itself to keep them safe.

What was intended to be a friendly conversation with a peer on the site can quickly go awry. Users have the option to choose whether they would like to text a stranger online or engage in a video call, and then they get matched with a person. There are features that allow users to filter their options by certain features both people have in common. While there are settings that allow the chats to be monitored, minors are matched with dangerous individuals like sexual predators and online abusers too frequently.

“I’m absolutely appalled,” chairman of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Julia Knight said in a BBC interview. “This sort of site has to take its responsibilities seriously. What we need to do is have a series of fines and even potentially business interruption if necessary, which would involve the blocking of websites which offer no protection at all to children.”

A major part of the problem is the site’s lack of accountability. The absence of security measures allow for virtually anyone to use Omegle anonymously without a sure method of tracking down dangerous individuals who happen to use the site. There is no clear page that gives the user information about Omegle or a place to contact the company’s team. In an email exchange with the BBC, Omegle’s founder Leif K. Brooks mentioned that the company was making an effort to monitor activity more closely, but he did not give details on how it would become a safer environment.

As a result, young users are becoming the victims of Omegle’s negligence. Children who use the website are vulnerable to explicit content regardless of the safety settings they select such as the moderated video chat. Despite its expectations to protect minors with certain features like the monitored chat option, the company walks away unscathed while children and families suffer the consequences.

The traffic Omegle receives from social media platforms like TikTok has only exacerbated the situation. A recent BBC study reported Omegle being the subject of viral videos from influencers like KSI, Charli D’Amelio, James Charles and Emma Chamberlain. The content from these influencers only encourages more young people to engage in improper online habits and potentially endanger themselves.

Especially during the pandemic when in-person contact remains limited, high school students may find themselves tempted to use websites like Omegle in hopes of meeting new people. However, it’s important to weigh the risks that come with visiting a site that does not adequately protect its users. It is easy for minors to be recorded without their consent and have personal identifiable information be collected. Since it does not look like the Omegle is going away anytime soon, it is up to teenagers and young adults to exercise their own good judgement based on online safety.