Illinois School Warns Students/Parents Of “Stranger-Danger” App
For many of us, the phrase "Don't talk to strangers" was just one of those things that you, as a kid, frequently heard from the adults in your life. I then turned around and said the same thing to my own kids to protect them from life's potential predators.
But, back when it was said to me, and when I said it to my kids, it meant "in-person." My parents were concerned about in-person encounters with strangers and kids, not some stranger who may very well be on the other side of the planet.
Well, times change, and there's a whole new set of worries attached to the phrase stranger-danger, as an Illinois junior high school's warning note to parents and students will illustrate.
Mokena Junior High School In Mokena, Illinois Became Aware Of An App Called Omegle, And Recognized The Potential Problems Using The App Could Cause
Maybe it's because when you Google the phrase "What is Omegle," the website Omegle.com shows up near the top of your search results. When you click on the website link, you're greeted with these words: TALK TO STRANGERS (click the link if you doubt me).
The website goes on to say that "When you use Omegle, you are paired randomly with another person to talk one-on-one. If you prefer, you can add your interests and you’ll be randomly paired with someone who selected some of the same interests."
As for moderation (someone keeping an eye on what's being said and/or shared during chats), Omegle has this to say:
Omegle video chat is moderated but no moderation is perfect. Users are solely responsible for their behavior while using Omegle.
YOU MUST BE 18 OR OLDER TO USE OMEGLE.
Mokena Junior High School Officials Said They Had Been Made Aware Of The App And Found It Concerning Enough To Reach Out To Both Parents And Students With A Warning
One of the biggest concerns is that kids chatting on the app would be asked for their names, ages, and locations by the person(s) they encounter there. But, that's not even the most worrisome aspect of this.
"Omegle does not appear to have powerful moderation. It also does not require registration or have age verification, which makes young people a potential target for abuse online," Dr. Mike Rolinitis, the school's principal, wrote in a letter to parents.
"Even more concerning is that children can easily bypass any safety controls and enter adults only and unmoderated video chat rooms where students are likely to be exposed to and be encourage to participate in explicit content," the letter read.
My parents had it so much easier, when all they worried about was a couple of beers getting swiped out of the garage refrigerator, or wild game of spin-the bottle.