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.
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.
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 demonstration 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.
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.
Upon starting the sign-up process for the app I was prompted to enter my phone number in order to receive a conformation 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 of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.