Monkey App Review | The Latest Social Media Craze

Monkey App Overview

The Monkey app is the latest social media craze for parents to worry about. Monkey is a social networking app with a Chatroulette functionality. The app enables users to accept or decline video conversations with other users. The calls typically last 15 seconds, but if the users are both enjoying the interaction they can request more time. Monkey pairs users by age groups and variables such as hashtags, so that like-minded people connect.

Monkey App Review: Features For Parental Caution

  • 13+ but lacks age verification
  • Auto-accepts new matches
  • Allows contact with strangers
  • Unmoderated chat functionality
  • No content regulation or moderation
  • There have been known instances of nude and graphic imagery being shared through the app

Although the app’s guidelines state that users are matched with others in their age groups, it isn’t clear what these age groups are, and 14-year-olds have been known to match with 18-year-olds on the app. Furthermore, the app’s age verification feature is essentially just an ‘honesty policy’, whereby they ask users not to lie about their age, and to report other users who do not appear to be the age that they claim to be. The below text is sourced directly from the Monkey app’s Terms of Use:

“You hereby warrant that you are at least 13 years old. In the event that the information you provide in this regard is not truthful, Monkey Squad shall not be liable as it cannot verify the age of its users.”

Monkey App Review: What Parents Should Know

According to the app’s community guidelines, “Monkey is about meeting new people and having fun”. However, the app creators will freely admit that they merely provide the platform from which users can communicate, and assume no responsibility for the way that people choose to conduct themselves from that platform. This is made abundantly clear in the below extract from their Terms of Use, which is inexplicably capitalised:

“You understand that when using the service, you will be exposed to content from a variety of sources, and that monkey squad is not responsible for the accuracy, usefulness, or safety of or relating to such content. You further understand and acknowledge that, while the services are not provided for pornographic purposes or for making sexually explicit content available, you may be exposed to content that you deem to be offensive, indecent, objectionable, or sexually explicit, and you agree to waive and hereby do waive, any legal or equitable rights or remedies you have or may have against monkey squad with respect thereto.”

Monkey App Review: How It Works

When researching and writing this Monkey app review, we downloaded the app and registered to use it. To create a user profile, all that is required is phone number, first name, Snapchat username, date of birth, and gender. Users are warned “yo you can’t change this later so make sure it’s all good” before submitting their information.

The app then asks for permissions in a way which could be considered humorous and creative but is also decidedly vague.

For example, the permission which grants the app access to the phone’s microphone has a picture of Kanye West and reads something to the effect of “Kanye has something to rant about, lend him your mic”. The location tracking permission has a picture of Kim Kardashian-West and says something along the lines of “Kanye can’t find Kim, share your location with him”.

While these are fairly standard permissions for modern apps to request, it doesn’t make it clear exactly what private information the user is having to surrender in order to gain access to the app.

The way that the Monkey app markets itself, from its icon and colour scheme to its quirky permission screens and colloquial word choice, serves as evidence of how this app is targeted to a younger demographic. That’s what makes it all the more concerning that this app makes no effort to ensure that this is a safe space for young people.

Monkey App Review: Parental Recommendations

Digital spaces are unique in that they aren’t audited or regulated in the same way that real spaces are. A playground or theme park intended for young people would be shut down if it was revealed that it lacked structural integrity or the foundations weren’t safe. So why are apps allowed to overlook basic safety requirements when they market themselves to young people?

It’s not appropriate to charge children with the responsibility of their own safe keeping. If they hear about an exciting new app that everyone is using and realise that they can access it by lying about their age, then they will. Of course, this brings to light exactly how important it is for parents to have oversight of their children’s online activities.

The redeeming quality of this app is that the creators (who, incidentally, are both teenage boys originally from Sydney) recognise that young people need ‘Internet friends’ as much as they need offline friends [1]. And while there’s no doubt that there are teens and young adults using this space to connect with like-minded people, share ideas, and have fun, the risk of them being exposed to sexually graphic, offensive, or illegal content is alarmingly high; all it takes is for one person to breach the “community guidelines”. Furthermore, if a child is able to lie about their age in order to gain access to the app, then online predators can do the same. This could lead to them being matched with young children and using the platform to befriend and groom them. Of course, the video call function would make it hard for older predators to conceal their true identity and age, but research has shown that age is not always a deterrent in grooming situations, with a majority of perpetrators choosing to reveal their true age [2]. Adolescent children may find it exciting to have an older ‘friend’ that makes them feel special and desirable, and may, therefore, engage with online predators willingly.

Discussion Opportunities

  • Talk to your child about the risks of sharing personal information with strangers
  • Ask your child how they would respond if a stranger asked to meet with them face to face
  • Common Sense Media recommends that parents talk to their kids about apps’ privacy policies and terms of service to help them understand how their personal information can be used
  • Ask your child if they know of anyone who has used the app and had an unpleasant experience: perhaps the person they connected with was meant to be 17 but they were actually a lot older, or they were exposed to something pornographic or upsetting
  • Discuss alternative apps that offer the same features but are safer and respect the users’ private information more respectfully

Cyber Safety: The Essential Guide To Protect Your Children Online

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