“Oh my god!!!” was my violent reaction when I learned about the latest “in” thing on chatting – Omegle anonymous chat. You know how we as kids were told not to talk to strangers, and how we also teach our own kids not to do so?
Well, a chat website founded by an 18-year old in 2009 espouses exactly the opposite. Omegle.com‘s homepage banner proudly bears its tagline: “Talk to strangers!”
Omegle anonymous chat is so easy and instant. Anyone can just start typing on the chat box and is automatically connected to someone else who is on the server. There is no need for registration, no moderation, no word filters (anyone can say anything they want).
The scariest feature for me is the video chat. As a parent, I try to guard my kids from porn. But this site’s video chat feature has just made porn access so much easier.
As if it weren’t easy and accessible enough, there is also an iPhone app for Omegle anonymous chat.
So, our young kids’ intentions for using Omegle anonymous chat or other similar chat sites may be simply just for fun, to meet other young people from other countries and cultures. That’s great, good intentions and all! But when there’s no one controlling who sees what, who is showing what, that is just scary.
Then there’s the issue of sexual predators. Sites like Omegle, where everyone is anonymous, are a haven for pedophiles, sexual predators and other sickos.
If you think that internet crimes only happen in hi-tech countries, think again. Child exploitation – including cybersex and child trafficking – is one of the more prevalent internet crimes in the Philippines. Child cybersex is not some distant reality; it’s happening in the country.
But the virtual world is just as real, if not more dangerous, than the real world. Bad people abound in the web. The anonymity factor makes it so easy for bad people to do their thing.
So how do you protect your children? Internet access is a necessity in most households. And as a kinda-techie parent, I encourage my kids to use the internet as a learning tool. But there should be limits and guidelines.
Here are some tips I can share to prevent our kids from getting entangled in Omegle anonymous chat and other iappropriate websites:
1. Be present. You can’t possibly install a security camera in each nook of the house, but you can keep track of your child’s computer activities by being there physically, right beside your child. There is no substitute for parental presence.
Tip no. 1 may not always be possible, especially when both parents are working. But that is not an excuse to be lax and let the kids take control of the mouse.
2. Regulate computer use. Place the computer in a common place in the home so that the child is deterred from accessing porn or forbidden sites. Too much freedom is not good – you know that. So keep a rein on your kids’ computer use. Limit their surfing time, and make sure you are clear about this. Set the rule and follow it. If you say 2 hours, stick to it. Kids know when your rules are bendable and they will keep bending and bending them.
3. Be more high-tech than your kids. Strive to learn to be techie. You know, it’s not impossible. You’re reading this – that means you know at least how to browse the internet. All it takes is some willingness to learn. Besides, most sites are user-friendly. And, for each question or trouble you encounter, the answer’s just a Google search away. Invest a little bit of time reading tutorials, so you can always be a step or two ahead of your kids.
So, dahil willing ka nang maging techie, here’s tip number 4….
4. Block access to websites. You can do this through several options:
a. You can install add-ons or extensions. These are simply programs you download and they will add the blocking feature to your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, etc.)
To install an extension on Google Chrome (the browser I use), simply right-click the wrench icon on the upper right corner of the browser. A dropdown menu will appear; choose “Extensions”.
A page on Chrome Extensions will appear. Search for the extension on the search box. I installed Chrome Nanny – it can block several sites that you want at certain times of the day and days of the week too. I blocked Omegle and Chatroulette.com 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
Simply click the “Install” box, and it will only take a few seconds. You will not download anything; the extension will install itself into your browser. Once installed, you will see this:
Select “Options” for the fun part to begin – blocking the sites! Simply enter the URLs of sites you wish to block.
This extension, by the way, is also ideal for those who want to limit their Facebook surfing time, owing to its ability to set time and day limits. *ahem, ahem* 😛
b. You can purchase and install internet filter software or programs, such as Net Nanny. Some programs offer free trials.
To block sites on Internet Explorer 7, here’s a tutorial. On Firefox, check this out.