Parents are being warned over the dangers of a website that is pairing children with random strangers.
Parents are being warned over the dangers of a popular chat website used by children as young as eight that randomly pairs strangers for one-on-one conversations. US-based Omegle, a rival to video chat service Chatroulette, facilitates private text or video chat sessions between strangers who speak anonymously using the names ‘you’ and ‘stranger’, meaning you have no control over who you talk to.
Although the website says it is for users aged 18+ and claims to be moderated, there is no registration or age verification process in place. Users do not even need to input their date of birth before they are paired with a random stranger to chat.
Predators using the site to get children.
Child protection groups including the Internet Watch Foundation and the NSPCC are concerned about the risk of predators using the site to gather child sexual abuse material or to expose themselves to children.
One anonymous parent told the BBC how her eight-year-old daughter logged onto the site after seeing it on TikTok and found herself paired with an ‘older man’ who asked her to ‘shake her bum’ and ‘take off her top and trousers’ on camera.
However more often it is random people paired for chats, some with sinister intentions.
Chris Hughes, hotline director at the Internet Watch Foundation, which is responsible for finding and removing images and videos of child sexual abuse online, told the BBC: ‘We have found self-generated abuse material elsewhere on the internet which has been created by predators who have captured and distributed footage from Omegle.
‘Some of the videos we’ve seen show individuals self-penetrating on webcam, and this type of activity is going on in a household setting often where we know parents are present. There are conversations that you can hear, even children being asked to come down for tea.’
In short, it is important to be very aware of what kind of content your children are engaging with, teach your kids about internet safety and if possible track what they are watching and have all the passwords.