Listen to this page! Narrated by Lilani
Updated: December 14, 2021
Episode Background: In the episode “Snowmegle”, a group of 11-year-olds during a sleepover find a fictional website called Snowmegle (a parody of Omegle). The girls find out the hard way that random video chat sites are usually filled with adults looking to be sexual and obscene with anyone, including kids.
Highly Sexual Environment – Sites like Omegle are often filled with predators of all kinds. Up until 2020, Omegle actually had a warning on the main page of their site warning of predators on their site. Often sexual imagery in the form of ads or live persons pollute the landscape of these kinds of sites. Filled primarily with men masturbating or looking to get any female nude, Omegle and similar sites in recent months have come under fire for their lack of oversight and monitoring. Often men who seek to get females nude do so under the guise that nobody else will ever know or see.
Recordings/Porn Sites Upload – Under the guise that nobody else will ever know or see what’s happening on Omegle, females are often tricked into getting sexual with strangers. Often these men will record the encounter and post it to pornographic sites. Search “Omegle” on any website that hosts amateur pornographic content and you’ll often find hundreds or thousands of videos from Omegle that have been recorded (often unknowingly to the females) and uploaded. These videos garner tens of thousands of views on these types of content. They often are saved and re-uploaded on other websites. These videos usually lack any kind of meaningful consent and often victims of this kind of crime, when notified, find it very difficult for the videos to ever be erased from existence. Child sex abuse material (CSAM) often is created under these types of circumstances, when the victim is unaware of the recording. CSAM will have negative consequences for handlers of that kind of content but generally when pairing together random strangers from all parts of the world, it’s hard for law enforcement to have any effect on trafficking of this kind of material.
Lack of Age Verification – Because age verification on these sites usually means clicking a button to affirm you’re an adult and nothing more, anything usually goes. From people trying to lure others into doing sexual acts or the possibility of grooming (in long distance relationships), this is certainly not an environment that breeds healthy choices.
Thought to be safe spaces – In this episode we hear the parent of the child who’s allowing a sleepover, tell another parent that there will be supervision. This may give a false sense of security to another parent looking for assurances. The older sister in this scenario actively encouraged the usage of Snowmegle and didn’t give much thought to the potential consequences. Spaces like this often can clash family values and disrupt positive influences temporarily. This kind of lack of supervision is reckless although it’s not given too much thought if nothing overtly stands out as being problematic about the sleepover experience. Damage to a child’s psyche can occur from only one negative experience like this.
Emotional wellness – Children on these types of sites may find it comforting that others may be like them. Loners or those with depression may find sites like Omegle entertaining, because it often allows those who may be shy or socially awkward an opportunity to make ‘friends’ and chat with others. As there are no meaningful filters, people that use these types of sites typically have poor boundaries and exploitation of all kinds often arises. An addictive quality to these types of sites may find users spending a lot of time with people they won’t ever truly know. Often to get what they want, men will say or do anything to keep female users engaged and to prevent them from moving on to the next person. The site allows for a ‘dump’ of the current connection to move onto someone else for whatever reason. This may also feed into negative health or relationship traits, reinforcing that someone just needs to click on a button to get rid of their problem (on screen). Often, kids that use this site lack emotional maturity and are depraved in some way from real life meaningful connections.
Talk to kids about porn or sites like Omegle. Talk to kids about sexuality! If you don’t they may go learn from others online in venues like this. Discuss with pre-teens the potential risks of these types of sites, and prepare them with a game plan for when your child is attempting to sleepover at a friend’s house. A situation where a child doesn’t take part in activities like this during a sleepover could ostracize a child or socially mark them in the playground.
Use filters and systems like Apple’s Screen Time (watch a demo here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJEa8W3ho94 ) where you can add websites your child can go to, not allowing all others. Third-party monitoring software often comes with liability and cost. Make sure your kids (age appropriate) can’t add apps without permission. Watch out for apps that store hidden content like pictures or videos (most look/function like other apps like calculators). Obviously this will only go so far if children come together for a sleepover from different households. Make an agreement with the parent overseeing the sleepover so that devices are taken away during the sleepover and consistent monitoring is taking place.
Monitor Emotional Health
Major changes in behaviour could be a sign of trauma or harm in a child. Children that are withdrawn or socially awkward could be at higher risk for grooming, seeking out this kind of sexualized content or connection with others. Keep talking to your child about issues of all kinds. Make sure nothing is embarrassing to talk about. Connecting with your child can be a lifesaver.
Treatment May Be Helpful
If you discover your child has been viewing pornography or undertaking in activities depicted in the episode, keep calm and stay rational. Remember what it was like to be at that age with hormones running wild. Sexuality should flourish within reasonable boundaries. Shame likely should have no part of discussions with children and if it does, YOU may want to seek support from a professional (like a therapist). Organizations like Parents Aware https://parentsaware.info/ may be a helpful resource for parents dealing with these kinds of issues. Keep an open mind and be aware that you may only be scratching the surface of what’s really going on.
Removal of Indecent Images
While it’s best that CSAM isn’t created in the first place, some parents may find themselves in a situation where a child has been duped into something foolish. Organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the United States and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection in Canada operate Cybertip. They also have resources that may be helpful in getting CSAM removed from websites although that may have limitations. Finding out the companies that host the servers for pornographic sites may be difficult but it may be fruitful in sending a cease and desist letter or contacting law enforcement with this kind of information.