PARENTS at schools around York have been warned their children may be using an inappropriate online chat site.
Messages have been sent to parents of pupils at several schools - including York High School, Millthorpe School and Joseph Rowntree School - following reports of young children becoming involved in conversations with older people through online site and downloadable app Omegle.
Omegle users must be aged over 18, or over 13 with parental permission, although no registration is required to take part in chat through webcam, online or on mobile phones.
Rod Sims, associate headteacher at York High School, said police had attended the school to speak to several young girls who had spoken to someone older through the site on their phones.
Mr Sims said: "Police were involved in speaking to the girls on the dangers and the fact they were speaking to someone who, it appears, weren't who they said they were.
"There are many, many of those sites, it just appears that this one appears to be attracting the wrong sort of user."
The home page of Omegle explains: "When you use Omegle, we pick someone else at random so you can have a one-on-one chat. You're anonymous unless you tell someone who you are (not suggested), and you can stop a chat at any time. If you prefer, you can add your interests, and Omegle will look for someone who's into some of the same things as you instead of someone completely random."
Today, this message was posted on the York High School Facebook page: "We are aware that in our school and in another York school there have been issues with adults pretending to be children on this site which has led to a police investigation. Please do not use this site or any other anonymous chat rooms as you do not know who you are talking to."
A letter posted on Millthorpe School's website on Friday called the website "unsafe", and advised parents to talk to their children about online safety.
Trevor Burton, Millthorpe headteacher, said: "This website is dangerous and could easily be used for the grooming of young people. It has highly adult content.
"I ask that you please check your child is not using these sites, and discuss the dangers of such sites with them. I also urge you to use any blocking facilities your internet provider may give you to block these sites."
Andrew Haigh, deputy headteacher in charge of safeguarding at Joseph Rowntree School, said: "While we are not aware of any child from The Joseph Rowntree School accessing these sites, it is important that schools share information like this to help safeguard young people."
Mr Burton also warned parents that similar sites to Omegle include Zumbi, Chatroulette, Tinychat and Whisper, and urged families to check online safety tips at bbc.co.uk/cbbc/topics/stay-safe or yor-ok.org.uk/SaferChildrenYork