Websites that allow you to meet other people via video chat are becoming increasingly popular. The contact restrictions in the Corona pandemic certainly contributed to this. Through open portals like Chatroulette and Omegle it is possible to meet new people. Although the websites are often associated with pornography, cybergrooming and questionable data protection, more and more young people are spending time there.
Platforms like Omegle and Chatroulette randomly connect users from all over the world. They can see each other via the webcam and chat with each other. Registration is not necessary for this. People can log in without revealing their name or other data. With Omegle, chats can be assigned according to desired topics and an ongoing chat can be ended with one click, so that a new contact is assigned immediately. More than two million people worldwide communicate with each other via these websites. This makes the pool of possible contacts inexhaustible. Omegle is allowed from the age of 13, Chatroulette even from the age of 18. However, since the age or the required declaration of consent from the parents are not checked, younger people also use the applications.
The Omegle platform in particular is popular among young people. At TikTok videos of chats on Omegle are really hyped and shared under their own hashtag. Influencers tell stories on YouTube about their crazy experiences with Omegle. Many young people specify “TikTok” as their desired theme and thus hope to meet their great idols on Omegle . For young people, the platforms are a way to have new experiences and meet people. Things that are severely limited in times of Corona. They go online alone or with friends and chat with strangers from different countries. They often experience funny, weird and crazy things there. This can be exciting and fun – and distracts from worries and problems.
Platforms like Chatroulette and Co. are known for the fact that the content shown is often anything but adult. Anonymity is high and the inhibition threshold is therefore low. Many people use video chats to vent their frustrations, share extreme opinions or satisfy sexual needs. So it often happens that especially men show themselves naked in front of the camera. Insults and discrimination are also commonplace. This can be especially disturbing and unsettling for young people. Chatroulette threatens to take strict measures if the community guidelines are violated. However, past experience has shown that the anonymity of the users makes it almost impossible to trace them. Omegle states that the video chats are moderated, but warns against “Predators” itself on its website. This refers to people with bad intentions who use the platform to get in touch with young people. Dangers such as cybergrooming, sexual harassment or digital violence cannot be ruled out. Inadequate data protection poses a further risk. Users can save chat histories or take a screenshot. This usually happens without the consent of the data subjects. Another application also makes it possible to find out the IP address of the user with a little skill. Thus, the anonymous contact may not remain anonymous.
If your child expresses a desire to use these platforms or is already doing so, do not react with incomprehension and strict prohibitions. Even if you think that the websites are not suitable, a ban could increase the appeal of it. So it could happen that your child secretly chats with strangers on the Internet. Try to understand the fascination of such offers and talk openly about it. Educate your child about risks such as sexual harassment, bullying and cybergrooming. It is important that your child is aware that this is a public space to which everyone has access. Agree together on rules for dealing with such websites. Give your child the feeling that they can talk to you if they have unpleasant experiences or questions. Chatroulette and Co. are not suitable for children, despite precautions. Try to talk to your child about alternatives so that he or she can still make new contacts. For younger children, offers on children’s sites can be an alternative, e.g. via kindersache.de or seitenstark.de.