The danger of live streaming apps is something that parents can no longer afford to ignore. People are increasingly wanting to share their life and experiences in real time and they are rapidly gaining in popularity.
Whilst the appeal of these apps may be difficult for parents of a different generation to understand, they are in fact incredibly appealing for kids of all ages. Just go onto any of these apps and you can see kids as young as 6 or 7 broadcasting what they are doing in their bedrooms, with these same kids are also freely giving out their social media details for random people to connect with them.
It's also extremely common to see young children in their school uniforms – something which may seem innocent at first glance, but actually gives potential online predators even more information about where the kids live.
Tim Levy, Managing Director at Family Zone explains the danger:
“Live streaming is the new big thing and its rapid adoption by kids, broadcasting live from their bedrooms and bathrooms is shocking us all here at Family Zone. Live streaming is a magnet for cyber predators, a magnifying glass for insecurities and a breeding ground for bullies. This is now a clear and present danger at homes across Australia and parents need to take stock.”
Comments on these apps can be brutal, as users hide behind fake profiles, which paves a very easy path to intense cyber-bullying. Many users also actively encourage sexualisation of young children, with one young teenager promising to take off his clothes if he reached 500,000 likes.
David and Katie Kobler from Protect Our Kids describe how important it is that parents take responsibility for being informed of the dangers: “As parents, we would like to believe that we get to decide on the people who enter our homes. These apps have taken away these rights for many parents. Children as young as 5 or 6 can be entertaining strangers in their bedroom while parents are completely unaware. We must stay informed; our children deserve protection."
In the last three months alone, over 1.1 million people (including children) downloaded the four most popular live streaming apps in Australia. We’ve investigated these four apps and the risks posed to children from them are extremely disturbing.
BiGo Live is an app which allows users to live stream to friends and strangers. Whilst this app is more popular overseas, there is a large, increasing following in Australia. Anyone can tap a person and see what they are live streaming and chat to them directly. There are no moderators on the app which means users can live stream content with no restrictions.
Live.ly is an add-on app from Musical.ly which allows users to live stream to friends and strangers. Young children (14 and younger) live stream themselves and their friends getting ready for school, wearing their school uniforms and other users wearing extremely provocative clothing or no clothing at all. Again with this app there are no moderators meaning that anything can be live-streamed.
Musical.ly is an app which allows users to create their own music videos. Pick a song and video yourself miming it, then post it for the world to see. This app is very popular among young children who find it entertaining and fun. There are infrequent videos of people drinking or posing in sexual ways, however the main area of concern is of young children filming themselves in school uniforms, which poses a risk of online predators identifying the location of your child via their school.
Named one of the most popular social media platforms in 2015, SnapChat allows users to share time-limited videos or photos. After the allocated time frame has passed (anywhere from 1 second to 10 seconds), the image or video ‘permanently’ gets deleted. Unfortunately images and videos are never truly deleted from the internet, and it is easy for users to screen shot a photo. This app is a popular platform for sexting, however given the secretive nature of SnapChat, and the false sense of security that many users experience in believing that photos/videos disappear forever after 10 seconds, this app poses significant risks for children and teens.
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