Do you understand Omegle? Are you already aware of the scale of abuse on the platform and how children are seeing it and linking through to it from Tiktok and Youtube etc? Could you help us help others to understand it?
It's one of the biggest challenges for parents right now. Understanding how even if your child doesn't have an app or you don't think they do, they can be viewing it on other apps.
Omegle is a website and app that has the tagline talk to strangers and it randomly pairs users with each other for text chats and live video chats.
Its popularity suddenly leapt last year, and with younger children very recently, for two main reasons - first it took over Tiktok (it was searched more than 9.4 billion times on Tiktok in 2021)... videos of Omegle on Tiktok range from silly pranks "I asked this stranger what to do with a wotsit" to "I'm catching a paedophile"… they are both prerecorded and on the live streams.
In recent months, mainstream Youtubers like Sssniper Wolf etc started posting on it which brought more awareness of it as a platform to even more children, and very young children, on Youtube, Youtubeshorts, Snapchat, Twitch and Discord.
It isn't silly at all. It comes up repeatedly in our sessions. Last year it officially recorded 600,000 incidents of child sexual abuse, but these are a tiny tip of the iceberg of what is happening. As they swipe through pairings, the children commonly see someone indecently exposing themselves or carrying out sexual acts (masturbating etc) very quickly.
The adult is often (but not always) in another country. In many cases they describe the person having someone else (often a child) in the room with them. They often ask the child here to do something. They often record whatever they are doing and the child’s reaction to it, at their end.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Ok, so here is the most important part. Even reading this post may have been difficult for you. As with all conversations about Child Sexual Abuse it’s not easy but that is why we exist to help. Children can only be protected when we know what they are really seeing and what is happening to them.
The most important single thing you can do is to talk to your child...
Don’t put it off to a perfect moment. Don’t start with what you think you know, that becomes like a line of interrogation instead of a conversation, start with what they know and ask them to help you to understand what they are seeing.
Don’t assume that they won’t want to talk to you about it – children want to be kept safe and secure, and they want to keep other children safe too, they might need your help to understand how these conversations help them to do that.
The most important single thing they could do is talk to you and show you when they see anything inappropriate that could affect them, or that is affecting their friends.
You can talk about avoiding certain spaces altogether, optimising parental controls as well as not clicking through for example – but you need an awareness they will still see them on other platforms, so the conversation has to be wider than that.
Remember that, if they are already aware of Omegle, they will either have seen the jokey side or the adult side on socials and may have already gone on, so they may have been shocked by what they saw and may need your help to process it.
If they have had a significant experience – please seek support from us or another child protection organisation. Please don’t “just deal with it yourself”. If they have been indecently exposed to or asked for images directly, please do report to the police – as it is so important that these incidents are recorded so that we can try to understand the networks behind the abuse at the other end.
If you are not sure of whether or what to report – please contact us for support. Please do not post significant experiences into the comments on here on this one as they are likely to involve offences against children and are highly significant experiences for children themselves.
Let’s not make this only about Omegle, there have been other events in the news recently that you may have found unsettling in this area, and there is a huge market for material involving child sexual abuse that is driving this – but please do help others understand why this particular site has gained popularity so quickly.
Thank you for your help.
Annabel and the Cybersafe Team