I have been seeing Meerkat pop up a lot lately on the Techcrunch blog (http://techcrunch.com/2015/03/16/meerkatroullette-is-chatroulette-for-meerkat-because-meerkat/?ncid=rss) I follow. I try to keep current with the app world and how it might affect my clients or the children of my clients. When today’s headline on the Techcrunch blog stated (Meerkat Roulette is ChatRoulette for Meerkat), I started clicking on things for more information.
First some background. Meerkat is a new video streaming app for iOS systems that allows the user to livestream video. It is similar in function to Skype or Facetime in that what you are videoing on your iPad is heading out into the world. The difference with Meerkat is that it is not going to one single person, but the video will livestream to the entire world (or at least people who are on the app).
The app launched in February and was heralded at SXSW this week, though some in the media are saying it is already “dead”. In order to combat some issues, the Meerkat Company launched Meerkat Roulette which is a function of the app that lets you randomly see the live feed videos of people using the app.
So I logged in on my twitter account @DrJenniferWeeks and checked it out. What I saw was rather innocuous. There were a lot of live streaming videos from SXSW in Austin but other things from around the world: a person playing piano in an office building, some webinars, presentations in lands whose language I don’t understand and some folks in Rio and Germany doing things that again, I didn’t understand due to the language difference. There was, thankfully, nothing sexual in nature.
My anxiety about this app comes from what I know occurs on ChatRoulette. If you go on ChatRoulette, or similar apps, you inevitably see someone doing something sexual. Often there are people masturbating on camera or engaging in other similar behaviors. My concern is that this new Meerkat Roulette will end up with users who are exposing themselves to the world.
Hopefully, the fact that this app streams to the public and is not private will deter most users from engaging in any inappropriate sexual content on the app that a minor might come across. I am also hopeful that concerns are all misplaced. However, I think it best that those of us who work in the field or are parents of tech savvy children are at least aware of the new app and how it works.