What Parents Should Know About Meerkat

This week I am continuing to review live-streaming apps. These apps have been taking the social media world by storm and allowing users to share their lives in real-time. While these apps have been embraced by many in the celebrity world, it has turned into a genuine cause for concern for parents as their kids begin sharing a little bit too much information.

Last week I took a look at the popular app Periscope which launched in March of 2015. Today I am taking a look at a very similar app called Meerkat.

Meerkat

Launched in February of 2015, Meerkat went viral after widespread use at the South by Southwest festival.

Users are able to broadcast whatever they like. Unlike its rival, Periscope,  Meerkat offers users the opportunity to schedule when broadcasts will happen which is a great perk for musicians planning a show to live-stream, etc.

Content

For the most part what I experienced on Meerkat wasn’t too shocking. There were some people running Q&A’s (there was one interesting one going on about the music industry that I actually watched for a while) and another was a cooking Screenshot_2015-08-04-18-05-40demonstration which was also quite interesting (I love to cook so it won me over).

At first glance it seems that, for the most part, the younger crowds have opted for Periscope over Meetkat. The worst of what I found in the hour I spent sifting around was a group of three guys who were obviously inebriated sitting around talking and smoking a bong.

That’s not to say that others aren’t using the app inappropriately, they just happened to be otherwise occupied while I was on. I would like to think that the lack of any sort of privacy along with the broadcast of one’s location is enough to discourage such behavior.

Bullying

While I didn’t witness anything too bad while on the site, there is still the potential for negative interactions through Meerkat similar to what I had witness on periscope. The site does allow for reporting of those making a broadcast but I couldn’t find a way to report individual users who were posting inappropriate content. At the same time I wasn’t able to block anyone either, leaving the app open to all sorts of issues.

Privacy

Upon starting the sign-up process for the app I was prompted to enter my phone number in order to receive a conformationScreenshot_2015-08-04-17-57-32 code to complete registration. This is an instant red-flag for me as I hate giving my phone number out to anyone or anything. The fine print insists that numbers are never given out but that’s not a comforting thought for me. If you’re not comfortable with your child revealing their phone number to a company, than this is the point where you shut it down.

Continuing the sign-up process you are asked for your name and a username. As always, usernames should shy away from revealing personal information like names, locations, age etc. Another interesting aspect was that I was required to upload a user picture before I could continue. Same rules, as always, apply when selecting a user picture- be aware of everything depicted as it might reveal too much!

When broadcasting the one and only setting is public. Anything being streamed will be seen by anyone that cares to watch. Additionally, something that really bugged me, the location Screenshot_2015-08-04-18-03-55of the broadcast was shown to anyone watching. For example, mine read Orlando, FL and I could find no way to turn that option off. This is another major issue that I think is enough cause to want to keep kids off of the app.

Unlike Periscope, however, the broadcasts are one and done meaning that there is no saving or rerunning the broadcast once it has ended. Periscope allows users to save videos for up to 24 hours.

Additionally, anything you do on Meetkat is automatically broadcast to Twitter which is something else that bugs me about the service. Every comment you make automatically becomes a tweet. I refrained from any interaction during my time on the site for this reason.

Should Parents Be Concerned About Meerkat?

Short answer, YES! Despite seeing less inappropriate content on the app, too many red flags went up for me in regards to the user experience. I don’t like how much information and linking is required in order to use the app and that every little thing is broadcast out to your Twitter followers. This is definitely one of the apps that is best to avoid.

The app is rated for teens which is 13+ in compliance with COPPA.

As always if you have questions about this or other apps please do not hesitate to send an e-mail to info@joshgunderson.com. The “What Parents Should Know” blog series will be posted weekly throughout the year as time in our schedule allows.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

What Parents Should Know About Periscope

Good morning world! I have been away for a longer time than I had anticipated but various projects kept me from having the proper time to sit down and write out blog entries! Hopefully that trend ends now as I prepare to return to life on the road!

Over the past few months, live-streaming apps and websites have gained a large following. Today’s entry will take a look at the most recent addition to this fad: Periscope.

Periscope

Officially launched in March of 2015 the Twitter-owned app gain instant popularity with both the general public and many celebrities.

The app allows users to live-stream from their phones or computers (equipped with a web cam) to the world around them. I know this service has been popular with a number of my friends who enjoy live-streaming parades and fireworks from Disney World to friends around the world that aren’t able to be there in person.

During my brief time playing with the app this afternoon I witnessed the following:

A young man talking about a new pair of shoes he purchased.
An Irishman conducting a Q&A about drinking.
Someone getting a haircut.
A teenager driving. Yep. Driving. While looking at his phone and responding to comments.
A grown man with his two children in the car (not seat belted) driving and responding to comments
Two teen girls conducting a Q&A session and receiving inappropriate questions.

Privacy
ToScreenshot_2015-08-04-16-32-21 join the app, users much also be a member of Twitter and the two accounts will be linked. Upon signing up you are able to create a username different from your twitter account, if desired. As always, I recommend staying away from usernames that reveal a lot of personal information including full names, locations, age, etc.

When it comes to broadcasts, the default setting is Public but users do have the ability to change over to private and, from there, select which of their followers are able to view that particular broadcast. When left public, the broadcast is shot out to the world. As far as I can tell (with Android at least) there is no way to limit narrow down viewable broadcasts to those around you.

Sexting/Content

While the app’s community guidelines prohibit content of a sexual nature, it doesn’t stop users from broadcasting such things. While surfing around the app I did come across some rather adult situations which I reported but there seemed to be no response from the app as the broadcast continued and now seems to be archived to the user’s account. Broadcasts are able to be saved for up to 24 hours on the user’s accounts for those that aren’t able to see 2015-08-04 16.11.56it live.

Common sense is the name of the game but in a world where becoming social media famous seems to be on everyone’s mind, that idea seems to go out the window. While briefly viewing a broadcast being conducted by two 16-year old girls they were being bombarded with questions and comments like, “what is your bra size?”, “Are you virgins?”, “What’s the furthest you’ve gone with a guy?”, “You two should make out!”

Thankfully in this case those questions and comments were ignored but I fear for those who decide to get provocative for the sake of gaining more likes and followers.

Once it’s out there, there is a chance of it resurfacing. Periscope is not safe from apps and tricks that allow viewers to record or screenshot what they are watching and sharing it elsewhere with others. A quick google search told me all I need to know about saving broadcasts both on my phone and computer!

Bullying

Again, after just a few moments of joining someone’s broadcast I was witness to some hard words and speech being thrown around by other users. One young man, 14, was conducting an “I’m bored” Q&A which was being viewed by about 100+ people. One user in particular seemed relentless about asking whether or not the broadcaster was gay. When the questions was initially ignored, the viewer became agitated and resorted to some more colorful language. The broadcaster responded that he was straight and had a girlfriend. The user, not satisfied with this answer proclaimed “Well you seem like a fa**ot!”

While the app does allow for users to block and report one another, the wording in their terms of service makes me nervous about what Twitter (Periscope’s parent comany) does with these reports. As stated in their Terms, the have the right to monitor and investigate users but are under no obligation to do so. I feel like this invites nothing but trouble and should certainly be something parents keep and eye on if they allow their kids to use this service.

Should Parents Be Concerned About Periscope?

Of all of the live-streaming apps/websites that are available right now, Periscope seems to be the safest with the ability to at least limit those who are viewing what your are broadcasting.

That being said, I would place Periscope in the same boat as Omegle and Fling. I spent the better part of my time on the app terrified that I was going to stumble on something that would get me into trouble. My every gut instinct with apps like this is to avoid at all costs.

The app itself is rated Teen within the Google Play store meaning that it is following the COPPA standard for social networking sites which means that users must be at least 13 years or older to be a part of the site. This obviously doesn’t stop kids from lying to get onto the site. I encourage parents to set up safeguards to prevent younger kids from downloading the app to their device.

As always, take the time to talk to your kids about apps like this and remind them that sometimes something they think is harmless fun can cause them a world of trouble.

As always if you have questions about this or other apps please do not hesitate to send an e-mail to info@joshgunderson.com. The “What Parents Should Know” blog series will be posted weekly throughout the year as time in our schedule allows.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

What Parents Should Know About ooVoo

We’re getting back into the new year with our regular blog series “What Parents Should Know” where we explore popular apps kids are using and break them down for parents. For the first entry of 2015 I was asked at a recent parent night in Armonk, NY about the video chat app ooVoo.

Ooovoo004ooVoo is a video client, similar to Skype, which allows users to communicate through instant messaging, voice and video chat. The conferencing software allows users to communicate with up to 12 others simultaneously. The app is available through both Android and IOS as well as on desktop or laptop computers.

While Facetime through iPhones and iPods is popular with most students, it is limited to one on one chatting. ooVoo allows large groups to communicate making it great for homework study groups.

After playing around with the app and the desktop site I find no real issues with the program as long as users are smart about privacy and safety.

Here is my advice to create a safe and private environment on ooVoo!Ooovoo002

1) As a reminder, like a large majority of social apps out there, users must be at least 13 years old in order to sign up for ooVoo.

2) While creating your profile, you are not required to put your entire name. Youngsters should just be putting their first name to help keep themselves safe.

3) Create a username that doesn’t include personal information like your name, location or age.

4)  When adding a profile picture, video or status update be sure that there is no revealing information that can be found in them. Remembering that little things can add up to a lot when it comes to information posted online through pictures and these updates.

5)  Take advantage of the privacy settings (seen here)

Ooovoo003

For my ooVoo account, I set it up so only those with my e-mail address or username can find me in searches. I highly recommend this over the “Anyone” setting as it allows you to control who has access to you.

Also note that your profile picture, display name and online status are always public in your profile.

As I’ve mentioned before with a number of username based apps, it’s important to keep this information private. Reminds kids not to share usernames to chat sites within their profiles elsewhere. It drives me insane when I see Kik, Snapchat and other usernames posted within public Instagram or other profiles. By keeping these usernames private, it limits those who have access to them.

So to answer the question about whether or not parents should be concerned about their kids using ooVoo, the answer is no. Like most apps available, ooVoo does its best to ensure the safety and privacy of its users.

It’s up to parents to remember to have regular conversations regarding online safety and etiquette.

As always if you have questions about this or other apps please do not hesitate to send an e-mail to info@joshgunderson.com. The “What Parents Should Know” blog series will be posted weekly throughout the year as time in our schedule allows.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

What Everyone Should Know About Facebook Messenger: Myth vs Reality

It would seem that we have once again found ourselves in a position of being mad at Facebook. I’m not surprised at the issue seems to come up every other year or so. The popular social networking site will make a change, we’ll all get super mad and hate it, there will be threats of shutting down our accounts in protest, and then we get over it, carrying on as normal.

I’d like to take the time to welcome Facebook Messenger to the madness.

This first thing that I’d like to point out is that Messenger is not something new the Facebook just threw us out of left field, in face it hasFacebook001 existed since 2011. In its infancy, it was up to users whether or not they’d like to use the app for messaging or stick to the mail Facebook interface. Personally, I jumped on the messenger bandwagon sooner rather than later because it allowed me to check messages without getting distracted by other’s updates or anything from Buzzfeed.

The only big change that has come up in the past few weeks is that the use of messenger is no longer optional. In order to create a faster and more streamlined experience for users, Facebook has separated the messaging interface entirely for mobile users.

So why the move? In reaction to the backlash, Facebook responded with:

We’re committed to providing a fast, reliable and fun messaging app that anyone in the world can use to reach the people who matter to them. That’s why we’re focusing just on Messenger and moving messages out of the Facebook app. People usually respond about 20% faster when they have Messenger, and we think they’ll find both apps useful in different ways.

The two apps work flawlessly with one another. If you are using regular Facebook and click on a message, you’ll quickly be bounced over to the chat window for that message. Essentially- it’s along the lines of a Kik Messenger with the difference being you can use it to make phone calls over a data connection.

But Josh, Big Brother Is Watching!

If the rumors are to be believed- Facebook has teamed up with the NSA and is working to spy on our every move. They would argue that I’m being so positive about the App because I’m afraid they’ll come for me in the night.

Not the case at all- besides I have an army of attack cats that will protect me from NSA ninjas.

Facebook002For some reason, when looking at the permissions required of the app, people flipped out. In the last week, I received a large number of e-mails from both friends and the general public, flipping out over the app permissions.

My reaction- they’re no different from any other app you are installing on your phone. Kik, Snapchat, Tumblr- they all ask for access to your camera, photos, contacts, location, etc. What Facebook Messenger is asking for is nothing new.

To quickly break it down for you:

Camera Access: Many people really enjoy sharing moments from their lives with others. Be it a group photo with Mickey Mouse at Disney World or a quick selfie in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Facebook messenger recognizes that and wants to help. In order to send those photos to your friends, the app needs permission to access your camera to take that photo.  They are not going to remotely turn on your camera to watch you dancing around your living room whilst lip-syncing into a water bottle to the latest One Direction song.  (Note: these are all things I have personally done in the last 24 hours)

Microphone Access: another feature of the app is the ability to call your fellow users. If you’d like the person you’re calling to hear you, the app needs permission to access the microphone.

Like many other apps you are using, they are not turning on your camera or microphone when the app isn’t in use. It won’t message your friends unless you want it to and the same for phone calls.

While many of the initial reports on the messenger have been corrected to give readers the appropriate information about the app, it’s important to remember that when it comes to news on the internet,  you should try to go to the source to get the full story rather than falling into the conspiracy theorists’ traps.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Vine vs. Instagram: Which Is The Better Choice For Your Child

Last week’s entries about what parents should know about Vine and Instagram (with video) have created an interesting response in my inbox. Many parents want to know- which is better for my kid?

SPOILER ALERT: The winner is going to be Instagram.vine-vs-instagram

Privacy

Both Instagram and Vine give users the ability to keep their content private. By selecting this option (click “Edit My Profile” in Instagram, “Settings” followed by “My Content” on Vine) the only people that can see posts by a user and the ones that have been approved by the user to follow them. If you do not approve a user to follow you, they cannot see anything you are posting but your profile is still public. (I’m not sure how this applies to “revining” a video as its new to the latest update and I’ve had Vine for about two days).

I will also note that, until the most recent Vine update, there was no such thing as privacy on the app. This is important to know because if you are using the app and now wish for your content to be private- you can do so!

Content

The problem I have with Vine (and the reason that it is the loser in this game) is the content. Within minutes of being on the app I was able to locate pornographic material. Lots of it.

Twitter (who owns Vine) has no policy when it comes to inappropriate content on its site. This has lead to a large amount of mature posts onto the app. Though the app does restrict certain words from being used in hash tags (which users can search to find certain content, like puppies, why aren’t there more puppies?) this has just caused “mature” users to get more creative in how they tag posts. On that falls through the cracks is #NSFW (Not Safe For Work) which you can imagine will be posts that you don’t want to be watching at work.

This lack of content filtering is what lead Apple to request that the age limit for Vine be changed from 12+ to 17+. If you have set age restrictions on your child’s device, they won’t be able to download the app.

Facebook (who owns Instagram) has different views when it comes to inappropriate content. They forbid it. Within the Terms of Service for Instagram you will find the following: “While we respect the artistic integrity of photos and videos, we have to keep our product and the content within it in line with our App Store’s rating for nudity and mature content. In other words, please do not post nudity or mature content of any kind.”

Inappropriate content on Instagram can be reported by users and subsequently investigated and removed by Instagram. Repeat offenders will have their accounts suspended.

So there you have it. If you’re wondering which app is best for your child, I would go with Instagram. You will certainly be able to rest easier knowing that their access to inappropriate material is restricted to the point of non existence (though it’s important to know that borderline inappropriate material can and does exist, it’s likely to be less graphic).

If you’re curious as to which app’s features and interface are the best, I suggest checking out this awesome side-by-side comparison by TechSplurge (I’m also going to take this moment to give them credit for the graphic I used for this post- you’ll recognize it from their entry).

Do you have a preference? Let me know in the comments section below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.