What Is Omegle? How To Protect Your Children
Parenting in the digital age is challenging. There are dozens of dangerous sites and thousands of malicious users out there. One of those sites is Omegle, a social platform known for hosting predators and explicit content.
What Is Omegle?
Omegle is a social media platform for anonymous online chats. Its tagline, which appears at the top of the home page, is “Talk to Strangers!“
Omegle exploded in popularity during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The platform had 34 million visits per month in January 2020 and 65 million in January 2021.
Many new users were preteens and teenagers desperate for social connection during lockdown. Interactions on Omegle inspired dozens of viral TikToks, and the site became even more popular with kids and predators.
How Does It Work?
Omegle is simple to use, making it all the more appealing and dangerous to teenagers. Just enter “omegle.com” in your search bar, and with a single click, you can chat with anyone. It feels like freedom but leaves users susceptible to engaging in risky behavior.
Text and Video Chat
Chats are anonymous and mostly a free-for-all, but the platform does monitor video chat, and it expanded its monitoring activity in 2020. Omegle founder Leif K. Brooks told the BBC in 2021 that this expansion made the platform safer and has “led to the arrest and prosecution of numerous predators.”
That may be true, but it doesn’t prevent new predators from using the site.
College Student Chat
To access the college chat, you must enter an email address that ends in:
The email must be real.
When you enter your email address, Omegle sends you a message with a link you must click to enter the chat.
Spy (Question) Mode
Spy mode lets users ask two strangers a question and watch them discuss it. The platform requests “open-ended and thought-provoking” questions, but there are no restrictions. You can use spy mode to ask a question or discuss another person’s question.
You can enter a special interest on Omegle, and it will pair you with others who have entered the same interest. BBC investigators found that entering adult keywords in this field increased the likelihood of the site pairing them with predators.
What Are the Dangers of Omegle?
Unlike other social media sites, Omegle requires no account or sign-up. It’s a dangerous concept for anyone, but young users are particularly vulnerable.
In October 2022, Omegle changed its policies to exclude minors under 18 but didn’t add any age verification. Any minor willing to lie about their age can access the platform. When you go to the Omegle homepage, you see two blue buttons: “Text” and “Video.” Click either box, and you’ll get a pop-up with two checkboxes.
One asks you to verify that you’re under 18, and the other confirms that you’ve read the terms and guidelines. Neither checkbox has any form of verification in place. Users don’t even have to enter a birthdate or scroll through the rules and pretend to read them.
Omegle doesn’t require users to input identifying information — not even a name. The platform promotes this feature as a good thing, assuming it keeps people safer. Malicious users can’t hack the platform’s servers and find a user’s name or email address.
Unfortunately, that anonymity works both ways. Predators access the platform knowing no one can find their information. It lets some people feel they can get away with anything — and they try.
Sexual Grooming and Exploitation
The homepage of Omegle states it unambiguously:
- Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.
The 2021 BBC investigation found disturbing proof in multiple forms:
- Male nudity
- Live streaming masturbation
- Child pornography
- Advertisements for porn sites
In just two hours, the site paired the investigators twice with pre-adolescent boys masturbating live. One was just 14.
Investigators also talked with parents who reported sexual violence against children as young as eight. These predators asked the children to do sexual acts or watch them pleasure themselves.
The BBC investigators reported these incidents, but even teenage users have noticed that the monitoring is substandard. One teenager admitted frequently seeing men “being gross” on the platform.
Although Omegle claims to be monitoring its site more closely, there is an unmoderated section that’s just as easy to enter. The section is full of explicit content. Mother Jones magazine reported finding tabs at the bottom of the screen directing users to a “webcam site called ‘Camegle,’ offering categories like ‘Ass,’ ‘Teen 18,’ and ‘MILF.’”
No Effective Banning
While Omegle reserves the right to ban people for inappropriate behavior, it’s easy for users to get back on.
The easiest and most popular way is to use a hotspot or virtual private network (VPN). Because Omegle doesn’t ask for sign-ups, it can only ban users by blocking their IP address, which an internet service provider assigns to your computer.
If Omegle blocks an IP address, the user can get back on by using their phone’s hotspot. Users can also sign up for a free VPN that replaces their IP address, so it looks like they’re on a different device.
Any user who can Google “Omegle ban” will find dozens of articles showing them how to get around it.
Grooming and Unwanted Contact
Predators connect with children on Omegle and begin grooming them as victims. Once they gain a child’s trust, they start asking the child to perform explicit acts. They may even ask the child for their offline contact information or use the child’s home IP address to find their location.
Predators may also ask minors to reveal their usernames on other social media sites to gain more information they can exploit.
Who Uses Omegle?
It’s difficult to get an accurate demographic report on Omegle. There’s no registration system, and the platform discourages users from discussing their age, gender, or location.
The BBC investigation found that most Omegle users are under 34, and a large percentage are teenagers. Users themselves offer similar reports — adult men and minors, sometimes as young as 7 or 8 years old.
Omegle Safety Settings
Omegle is built without significant protections. The only way parents can protect their children from predators is to keep them off the site, ideally by blocking the platform. Be sure to activate the block on every browser and mobile device your children might use.
Many children have encountered Omegle at friends’ homes. Be sure your child knows not to use the site and to tell an adult if they find themselves in any situation online where they feel uncomfortable.
Parents and other concerned adults have begun to file lawsuits about the content they see on Omegle. One of the most prominent is a multimillion-dollar lawsuit involving a young girl known only as “A.M.”
In 2014, when A.M. was 11, Omegle matched A.M. with a now-convicted pedophile in his late 30s. According to the lawsuit, the interaction soon escalated to sexual extortion.
The man demanded A.M. send him sexual photos and threatened to expose their interactions if she backed out. The man also insisted that A.M. find new children for him to prey on.
Some lawsuits have encountered challenges due to Section 230, a piece of 1996 legislation that allows platforms to moderate content without facing liability as the publisher. But some lawsuits, including a 2022 suit in Oregon, blame Omegle for being a poorly designed product.
If you believe your child has been harmed by using Omegle or any other social media platform, contact us today for a free consultation.
Matthew P. Bergman