I recently received a tip about a livestreaming app for mobile devices called Live.Me. With the app, anyone can livestream video from wherever they are and viewers, or followers, are able to leave comments. The internet, being what it is, has caused problems for some users of the app.
While I was unable to find any arrests related to Live.Me there have been two separate sets of parents who have complained about the app to their local news channels. In one instance, a 9-year-old girl from Colorado was allegedly threatened and coerced into taking her clothes off on camera. In another instance, a 12-year-old Florida girl was reportedly approached on the app for explicit pictures.
At this point I decided to download the app for myself to see what it’s all about. On the surface it reminds me of Stickam, the now defunct web cam site. A good number of the streamers on Live.Me were scantily clad females. The age of the streamers isn’t always displayed and the app doesn’t really require any age check for it to be used. According to their terms of service, a user has to be at least 13 to use the app, but you have to be at least 18 to download it. I have no idea on how they can actually enforce any of that, which leads me to believe they probably aren’t. Live.Me also says they don’t allow nudity or explicit sexual contact of any kind, but again it’s unknown how they’re monitoring for such content, if they’re monitoring for it at all.
One thing that particularly bothered me about the app was the ‘Nearby’ feature. As far as I can tell, even if you disable your location, it still shows you people near you who are broadcasting live on the app. Location is disabled by default but that doesn’t appear to affect the Nearby feature. Even the amount of miles between you and someone watching your stream is too revealing for me. That’s all some predators need to begin gathering information on a victim.
So in conclusion, as with most apps, it’s the parent who has to be the ultimate guardian. Check your children’s phones and tablets regularly for apps like this and then proceed responsibly.
Thanks to Cynthia for the tip.
Blogging site Tumblr recently announced that they are rolling out an instant messaging service for users. Between its popularity with teens and guys who like to post child porn on it this should be a concern for parents.
According to the official announcement by Tumblr any user can message any other user by default. Settings can be changed to block any person that you’re not following. So potentially your child can be messaged by anyone on Tumblr. I’m not saying that your child will be approached by every predator on Tumblr however, it is one more avenue that they’ve been given.
The messaging service will be available on both desktop (pcs and laptops) and mobile (phone and tablet) platforms. So all anyone needs to access this service is a device and a wifi connection. If you’re a parent this is one more instant messaging app that you need to be aware of in order to better protect your kids.
This is an article from the StarNews Online, from Wilmington, North Carolina, about Lucas Michael Chansler. If you’ll recall Chansler is said to have extorted explicit pictures from at least 350 underage girls that he met on MySpace and Stickam. I don’t want to talk about Chansler per se but how easy it was to find some of his victims…
Special Agent Lawrence Meyer testified some of the girls in Chansler’s computer database were easy to identify. He told the court some of the girls put a lot of information about themselves in their profiles, like their full name and state.
Others, like a victim in Wilmington, were tracked down thanks to clues from the images they sent to Chansler.
Meyer said an FBI analyst found a photo of a girl on Chansler’s computer that included a radio station banner in the background. The analyst searched the radio call numbers and it led him to Wilmington.
Another victim in Texas was leaning against a plate glass window in her school library. Reflected in the window was the school sign.
I remember another story from years ago where a predator was able to identify his victim by the number on her soccer uniform and showed up at one of her games.
Use this as an opportunity to tell you kids that even the smallest amount of information shared with a stranger can lead to them being found in real life by a predator.
An article from CNN makes a case for making your children’s bedrooms a ‘screen free zone’ meaning no tablets, cell phones or computers in a child’s bedroom. They argue that kids having these devices in bed can affect their sleep but there’s another benefit to screen free bedrooms.
If kids do not have these devices in their bedrooms then it makes it harder for predators to contact them while parents are unaware. I’ve posted way too many stories where kids have been groomed through their cell phones on mobile apps than I care to remember. Also while the kids are sleeping this gives parents a chance to see what the kids are doing on their devices by reviewing their apps and history.
Social networks and kids: How young is too young?:
This article from CNN tries to tackle the question of how young is too young for kids to be on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Well, you can read the psychobabble from CNN are you can read the straight truth I’m about to give you.
Most of the bigger sites set the minimum age of use at 13. However they have no way of verifying a user’s age so it’s up to you, the parent, to make sure they’re not on it if they’re under age. I think 13 is old enough to be on a social site however it’s not old enough for them to be on social sites unmonitored. You may have the most well-behaved children in the world. You may trust them completely. It’s not your kids that you have to worry about. It’s the other people out there that you have no control over that you have to worry about. You may have the most intelligent and sensible child in the world but that doesn’t matter to a hill of beans when it comes to predators.
A lot of sexual predators out there are the most devious and manipulative group of cretins to ever slink across the face of the planet. Your kid is not immune to their Svengali like machinations. You must monitor your kids’ activities not just in Facebook and Myspace but everywhere on the internet.
My biggest safety tips to you are to not let them keep the computer in their own room and definitely not to let them have a webcam. You are really the only line of defense between your kids and predators.
And how old should they be until you stop monitoring their activity? I tend to lead towards when they’re 18 when they’re legally responsible for themselves. Hopefully by then you’ve instilled enough sense in them.
The terrors of Craigslist:
This is a great column from David Futrelle of CNN/Money about craigslist where the Maxim article I’m in is mentioned and the site gets a link so thanks for that David. However I like the article for more than just the fact that it drives traffic to my site. David gives a great summation of what is wrong with craigslist…
But I’m not buying it. Literally: I’ve never bought or sold anything on Craigslist, nor do I plan to anytime soon (and yes that includes “Erotic Services”). It’s not that I’m scared to buy from strangers online; I do that all the time, through eBay and Half.com and Amazon Marketplace. The difference is that, on these sites, I’m dealing with sellers who are accountable for their actions; they have reputations (and feedback scores) to protect. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll behave honestly or in a businesslike manner — I’ve dealt with a couple of bozos — but it vastly improves the odds.
I couldn’t agree more.
Children’s Advocacy Group Scoffs at New MySpace Security Measures:
Robert Fellmeth is the director of the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego. He’s not happy with the new proposed security measures that MySpace will be putting in place.
I’m just concerned that parents will get a false sense of security that this is all taken care of because they’re handling it — and I don’t think they can handle it.
He also has some advice for you.
Fellmeth says parents need to be the first line of defense in monitoring children’s Internet use.
You don’t send your kids sown a dark alley alone. Why should the internet be any different?
Teens turn to sites without monitoring:
This article from a local Arizona news outlet brings up a great point.
While soccer moms and politicians have their panties in a wad over MySpace no one is paying attention to the more dangerous site, in my opinion, Stickam.
Stickam is an unmonitored webcam chat site. To the unenlightened that means that anybody of any age with a webcam can go on Stickam and basically show whatever they want.
The site states that nudity will get you banned but think about it. Who is really going to complain about nudity since that’s pretty much what a lot of people are going there hoping to find.
Further proof that politicians are clueless.