Cheshire West and Chester Safeguarding Children Partnership (SCP) are warning parents about the risks of young people using the online chat platforms Discord and Omegle.
There have been reports that large numbers of children at local schools in Cheshire have told teachers or parents that they have seen really distressing material on these sites and have been asked by strangers to share pictures and videos of themselves performing sexual acts. One setting alone has identified 24 children who have been affected.
What are Omegle and Discord?
OMEGLE is advertised as ‘a free online chat website that allows users to socialise with others without the need to register. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions.’ The website also allows users to connect to webcams so they can be seen by the stranger they are talking to. It has an age rating of 18+ or 13 years + (with parental permissions).
DISCORD is an App that lets people chat via text, voice or video in real-time. It is very popular with gamers, and with the right privacy settings and monitoring it can be used safely. The safest way to use Discord is to only accept friend requests and participate in private servers with people you know. Avoid open chat functions. Discord has an age rating of 13 years +.
What is the SCP doing about this?
The SCP is taking these reports very seriously and is working with Police, Education, Social Care and Health to raise awareness, provide support to children significantly affected and identify perpetrators where this is possible.
The biggest challenge is that there is no registration required to use the likes of Omegle, making it difficult to trace perpetrators. Once children have seen these images they cannot be unseen, so the primary focus must be on ‘prevention rather than cure’.
A letter has was sent to all schools on 26th March 2021 with a request that it is shared with all parents to alert them to the dangers of these websites.
Where can I go for help and advice?
National Online Safety Website contains lots of advice, support and explainer videos to help guide you in areas such as Privacy and Security, Online gaming and Online Relationships.
Think U Know website which, amongst other things, offers advice on what to do if you come across child sexual abuse material.