You can often tell a lot about an app or product by their logo. (See Instagram or YouTube) They often use the small icon to entice you into using their app based on the style or the creative way the image can explain what the app is used for. Sometimes, though, you can be lured into a false sense of security by the playfulness of an app’s logo or icon. Monkey is a perfect example of this. When I saw Monkey listed as number 51 on the app store’s top downloads I was expecting to see some kid’s social media platform that would allow you to chat privately or play games or something. That’s not at all what I found.
In reality Monkey is a chat roulette type of video chatting app. Once you’ve downloaded the app it will ask you your age. You set your age to whatever you’d like it to be, provide your phone number and your snapchat username and you’re in. It immediately begins connecting you with someone to video chat with. While it’s connecting it shows your face dimly in the background and says who it’s connecting you to. You have the option to skip the connection or accept. If you accept you’ll be shown their video feed and they’ll see yours. In the short time I tested the app I was connected with all males ranging from ages 22-45.
Once you have connected with someone a countdown clock begins. You can tap the clock to add time and keep talking but if they don’t tap their clock you’ll be disconnected. This is another “swipe right” concept that gives each user the option to continue the connection with a simple gesture on their smartphone. To be honest I never accepted a connection. I still just don’t get a good feeling about the gamble of finding random video chatting partners. I don’t know what I”ll see when I connect. You also don’t know what your kids might see.
What Parents Should Know
The dangers of a roulette style video chat app should be pretty obvious. The potential for unwanted material and contact with dangerous people is real. While there is a report button to flag any inappropriate content, that method takes the “after the damage is done” approach to keeping their app free from pornography and bullying. The app is rated for users aged twelve and over and the terms and agreements explain how the company takes no responsibility for the content that may be displayed on the app.
This app was developed by two sixteen year old kids from Australia. They said that they designed the app to allow teens to build more random online relationships. Ben Pasternak and Isaiah Turner told Mashable “…Snapchat is for your real life friends and Monkey is for your internet friends.” These teenagers saw a line between their real world relationships and the ones they could make with people all over the world through the internet. This is exactly what parents need to consider. While living in a more globalized world has many positives there are also very real risks to exposing our young teens and kids to the entire globe.
My advice is to put this app on your uninstall list. Never trust an app based on their branding or icon. Have a real conversation with your teen about the potential of seeing body parts or other unsightly things on this app. Remind them of the problem of connecting with random people online. There are always people who will lie about their age or their gender in order to connect with someone they’d like to prey on. Even if they know they’re only going to be connected for a few seconds. Sometimes a few seconds is enough to cause major problems for our young kids. Don’t let the cute monkey emoji logo fool you. Uninstall on sight!
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