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internet safety

Cyber safety educator warns parents about Omegle platform.

Technology is constantly changing and teens are usually ahead of the curve when it comes to the newest tech on the block. Many parents are asking their children how apps work or using their teens as in-home tech support for anything technology related, so it's not a surprise when parents are two steps behind in warning their children about a problematic app or unsafe trend.

Think about being a teen in the late 90s and our not-so-smart greeting of "ASL" (Age, Sex, Location) for AOL chatrooms full of strangers that used to offer to pick us up for parties. Most of our parents didn't know how to get past the Ask Jeeves screen, let alone navigate to an AOL chatroom to see who we were talking to. In many ways, teens today are doing the exact same thing but with a faster internet connection, more platforms and high-definition cameras. But now, we're the parents trying to Ask Jeeves what Omegle is.

I'll give you a hint: Jeeves doesn't know, but this cyber security educator does, and she's sending out massive smoke flares to get parents' attention.


Tiana Sharifi, a cyber security educator, replied to a question asked on her TikTok page. The commenter asked if Sharifi thought Omegle was inappropriate and was given an in-depth answer about the dangers of the app for children.

"I educate parents but I also educate kids and teens, and what I will tell you is that when I go into these presentations, from grade six and upwards, they've all heard about Omegle," Sharifi says. "When I say, 'Have you heard of Omegle?' everybody's hands go up. But when I ask parents in parent nights, you get maybe two or three hands go up. This is not a safe platform."

Omegle is a video platform that essentially allows you to video chat with strangers for a few minutes at a time. Sharifi explains it as webcam chat roulette where the only safeguard is a box that you click saying you're 18. No math required to try to guess the correct birth year, just a box to check. There are no moderators and you can't choose the rooms you get dropped into, so kids can and do get paired with adults, and not always safe adults.

"If you want to do an experiment, you can go on Omegle yourself and you will see within five seconds of being on the platform, there will be a lot of inappropriate nakedness," Sharifi reveals.

@tianasharifi

Replying to @eveybevy70 #parenting #parentingtips #onlinesafety #childsafety

But if you think kids being dropped into random rooms with anonymous strangers is the worst part, Sharifi drops a bomb that most parents aren't ready to hear.

"The most alarming part is that the kids are being recorded without their knowledge," the educator shares.

Since the platform is live-streamed, the kids believe the interaction is completely temporary, unaware that the adult could be filming them. If a child decides to engage with the naked individual in any way, including in a way that's inappropriate, these screen-recorded interactions are then uploaded to inappropriate adult entertainment sites, according to Sharifi. But there's no extortion or blackmail, so neither the kids nor parents ever find out their children are on these sites that are specifically frequented by people looking for sexual content involving minors.

Teens aren't aware of the recordings and their parents aren't aware of the sites, so Sharifi bringing this to light on a public platform that teens and parents both frequent could make a positive impact.