As a parent you are probably trained to start forbidding your children from chatting with strangers, talking to or trusting strangers is one of the key elements of parenting. Through that hideous route, a lot of children go missing, kidnapped, molested or worse, simply because at some point they trusted someone and started a chat with strangers.
So, Imagine a website with a tagline that says, ironically, “Talk to Strangers” and “Your friends are boring; strangers are better!”
In comes Omegle, Yes, as strange as it seems, it has been reported that on average this website sees around 20,000 to 30,000 users at any second, which is an average of 150,000 users a day. Millions have visited and used the random chat features of Omegle and other similar sites just to Chat with Strangers!
Chat with Strangers, what could go wrong?
It has to be said that Omegle, Chatroulette and similar random online chatting sites have privacy policies that prohibit children under 13 and ask people under the age of 18 to use the website(s) with their parent’s permission, Omegle introduced the concept of random video chatting in 2009 and more recently started providing monitored video chats, saying “A team of living, breathing humans are moderating video chat 24/7 to keep it as clean as possible.” Under a title that says “Perverts not welcome. Decency enforced.”.
But are these sites truly a pervert safe space? The truth is, not really. A simple internet search yields horror stories of children lured via anonymous text chat and if an adult spends 30 minutes or less on the website, it will clearly show that a big majority of users are between the age of 12 and 21 if not less.
In a 2013 case, the transmission of nude photos and videos via Omegle from a teenage girl to a schoolteacher resulted in a child pornography charge
At the end of an Omegle chat, users have the option to save the chat’s log and share the link. Therefore your conversation is not really private, and the contents of the chat including any personal information a user might share can be sent to anyone without their knowledge or consent.
As for Chatroulette, it started receiving negative criticism within the first year of its launch in 2009, especially related to offensive, obscene or pornographic material that some users of this site were exhibiting. Emie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told CBS’ The Early Show that the site was the “last place parents want their kids to be. This is a huge red flag; this is extreme social networking. This is a place kids are going to gravitate to.”
An algorithm was developed to successfully filter out large quantities of obscene content on Chatroulette, The image recognition algorithms automatically flag users broadcasting sexual content. The filter works in a manner that identifies excessive amounts of revealed skin while simultaneously recognising faces as appropriate. Chatroulette claims that it periodically takes screenshots of the users’ video content. Humans then check the screenshots flagged by the algorithms and proceed to block the offending users for a period of time.
In an interview, Andrey Ternovsky, the owner of Chatroulette says “While recognition software improves, we have employed a moderation team to review pictures manually. We now have around 100 moderators who are all monitoring all webcam feeds and marking inappropriate ones. The combination of filter technology and moderation results in the banning of 50,000 inappropriate users daily.”
How To Chat With Strangers Safely
Many parents are concerned with teaching their children not to chat with strangers. The problem is parents often don’t define who a stranger is to them. This means children come up with their own definition of who a stranger is and this could lead them to chat with people they shouldn’t. While identifying strangers offline is sometimes hard for children to do it is even harder for them to identify strangers online.
Rules For Online Chats
If a child is going to chat with strangers online they should always be monitored by their parents or another trusted adult. Without supervision kids often share information with people online that they shouldn’t.
By nature, kids are very trusting and this can easily lead to them trusting a stranger they met online. Parents should always know a little bit about each person their kid chats with online. It is a good idea to sit them down and ask them, one by one, who the people are that they are chatting with online.
There are chat rooms to be found on the Internet, some of which are child friendly. While there may be no need to discourage children from chatting with others online young people need to be kept away from chat rooms for adults because these chat rooms often have people lurking who may or may not have honest intentions with a particular child.
Teens Chatting With Strangers
Teenagers often think they are invincible to the dangers of the world, and this applies even more so on the Internet where everyone feels anonymous. As kids, teenagers may be better off chatting with strangers online that are around their age only. Teenagers chatting with adults can often get themselves into trouble before they realize it.
Gallup surveys in the past have found that when teenagers chat with strangers online they are often doing it to be rebellious. Teens that want to engage in reckless behaviour feel that they can do so by chatting to strangers online simply because their parents don’t want them to. This is why it is easier to teach teenagers how to chat safely with strangers online than to try and discourage them from doing so.
Online Chat Programs
When a child is using online chat programs such as Yahoo Chat they should get in the habit of denying people who try to add them to a chat list if they don’t know the person. Unsuspecting children could easily inadvertently open the door to chatting with a stranger online by letting one add them as a friend.
Avoiding Revealing Personal Details
Since teenagers are more likely than younger children to give out personal details to strangers online parents need to talk with their teenagers about this issue. They should be advised that giving out personal information such as full name, date of birth, address and social security number is something that should be avoided unless they know the person in real life that they are chatting with online.
Teens should also be advised not to meet up with any one person that they only know through online chat. This is one of the easiest ways for them to put their safety and maybe even their life in jeopardy.
Teens who wish to make their email addresses accessible to strangers online are advised not to use one that contains their real names. This can help Internet predators find out more personal information than most teenagers realize.
Both teens and children should be encouraged to choose a screen name that does not suggest anything sexual or otherwise dangerous or revealing. Neutral screen names are the best choice because they make kids and teens less likely to be targeted by Internet predators.
Experts on the subject of children chatting online advise parents to draw up an agreement stating what their child is and is not allowed to do on the Internet. The agreement should state what are the responsibilities of the parents and what are the responsibilities of the parent.
Experts also recommend that parents install software that protects their child’s privacy online. This can come in the form of a firewall or an anti-virus program or other protective software. Parents who even suspect their child has been communicating online with a predator are urged to call the Cyber Tip Line, where they can report the predator to the proper authorities.
Children and teenagers should be taught not to reply to an email from a stranger asking them for personal information. Especially in the case of a young children they make think the stranger is trying to be their friend when they are actually just trying to get access to information that they don’t need to know.
Avoiding Chatting All Together
For some parents, the solution to this problem is simply not allowing their children to chat with strangers online. While it is easier to convince younger children not to, teenagers will likely resist banning chatting with online strangers from their life. Parents that would prefer their teens not to do so must handle the situation carefully in order to prevent them from chatting with strangers online just to be spiteful. This is why most parents make the decision to educate their children and teens on how to safely communicate with strangers online.
Whether parents choose to ban their children and teens from online chatting with strangers or they allow it as long as certain rules are followed, one thing is certain; chatting with a stranger online is something that should only be done cautiously.
The truth remains that anonymous chats with strangers’ websites and smartphone applications might create a false sense of complete anonymity and control of information but the truth is, nothing is ever THAT safe online. An example of online danger is an Omegle video chat, where teens click on a link and hit accept and the next thing, that Omegle video chat is featuring a naked 40-year-old man. Got the picture?
In one video chat with strangers, a child is forever changed, not realizing that even a video chat with strangers doesn’t have to offend or harass him but thinking it is perfectly fine to chat online with strangers. A chat with strangers video, just one chat with strangers video can change lives and prospects forever.
Ever been subjected to a stranger video chat? have you tried chatting with strangers? Tell us about your experience with the stranger video chat phenomena?