Published: 06:00, 25 February 2021
| Updated: 09:06, 28 February 2021
Not even five seconds into my first ever Omegle experience I was confronted by a penis.
The young man, who claimed to be from Egypt, decided to show himself performing a sex act while asking me to show him my own private parts. I quickly pressed skip.
Omegle is an anonymous chat room occupying one of the grottier parts of the internet for more than a decade. But lately it's blown up due to a hashtag on TikTok, a social media platform particularly popular with teenagers and children.
Omegle's new found popularity prompted social media consultant Zoe Cairns, from Rochester, to warn parents after discovering the platform does not allow users to block, filter or report content.
There were reports of explicit language and pornography being widely shared in this murky world, so I decided to investigate.
After the penis experience I was next greeted by a relatively mature individual.
The man who appeared to be in his 20s was from the USA.
"I've been using Omegle for a couple of years and absolutely anything can come up," he confessed.
"I don't think kids should be allowed on it, it isn't safe because you can't filter what you see.
"Sometimes you get to chat to some really nice people across the world but a lot of the time it's just people exposing themselves.
"There are a lot of men that flash themselves on camera but you rarely see women doing anything similar, it doesn't really happen."
After saying my goodbyes to the anonymous user I refreshed my page to see who or what I would be met with next.
I was greeted by another man carrying out an explicit act, his face hidden.
I was then met by a man who had his camera angled at his crotch, he was wearing jeans and hadn't exposed himself - yet.
He asked me if I was looking for "penis content", when I politely declined he responded "fair enough" and skipped me.
Next I was left staring at a black screen but once they realised I was a woman a piece of paper was removed from the camera and I was met by another man performing a sex act.
I'd heard horror stories but nothing could've prepared me for how bad the site actually was, I did not expect to see so many penises in such a short amount of time.
Anyone, including young people, can access this site extremely easily with no filters or restrictions available to prevent the type of content I've seen popping up.
Towards the end of my half-hour session I was greeted by a 15-year-old-boy from Texas.
"I've been using Omegle for about four months," he told me.
"I'm a singer so I've been using the platform for advice and feedback but from the other stuff I've seen I feel like I need to bleach my eyes.
"The worst thing I've seen was a man that had clipped wooden pegs onto his penis, it was awful.
"I don't think kids should be on this website, maybe it should have an age limit of 12 or 13."
It was very hard to find girls on Omegle, the first female face I met was a bot pretending to be a sex worker.
During my entire session I only connected with two, both of them didn't speak English so we spoke over the text chat provided.
A 16-year-old school girl from Holland said she hadn't been on Omegle long and joined the site after hearing lots of people talking about it.
"There are too many men here, I've seen some horrible things," she said.
A girl from the Philippines also felt this way.
The 17-year-old said: "I've seen d*** and bad things."
She also asked for my social media, I declined, but younger users seem to find it quite normal to swap their real life details with strangers they've found on the site.
Finally, in one last attempt to meet with someone 'normal' I was greeted by a man hiding himself from view.
I asked where he was from and instead of talking he typed that he was from the USA.
I replied and said I was from the UK, full of hope I asked him how he was.
After telling me he was 'good' he proceeded to ask me if I wanted to see him touch himself.
And with that I closed the tab vowing I would never go on Omegle ever again.
While chatting to these strangers there was no way to report something I had seen, I couldn't block the user or identify them to make a complaint.
There were also no contact details for Omegle.
I found the whole experience horrifying, no wonder barely any girls are on the site, I definitely wouldn't want to use the platform again and I definitely wouldn't want any of my younger family members on the site.
Speaking about her issues with the site, Zoe said: "If children using Omegle see anything like that they need to reach out to an adult or guardian so they can report it."
As a result of the Omegle hashtag trending on the popular video-sharing site, TikTok, the sites visits have increased from 34 million to 65m visits over the last year.
Zoe added: "I think understanding what your young person is doing online is really important.
"Keeping up with the latest trends is key and looking at the internet and safety services that are online is really important.
"I know life is busy and its challenging right now with home schooling but we should understand what children and young people are looking at online.
"We need to understand what people are looking at online. Omegle has become so popular due to a new trend and TikTok need to look at that and see if they are responsible for this hashing and young people's safety online.
"I would definitely not let children and young people look at this website, it is not at all controlled or filtered and there is no way to block and filter people on the platform."
We were unable to contact Omegle for comment.