Parents’ Guide to the Meerkat App

In the last month, a new app called Meerkat has taken the Twitter community by storm, or at least that’s how it looks from what I’ve seen in my Twitter feed.

merkat-app-logoWhen we look at new apps and social networking sites, we try to focus on that platform’s rules, what they mean for how teens will be using it and what parents need to know. With Meerkat, it’s pretty simple. Meerket was built to piggyback on Twitter so anything that is permitted on Twitter is okay on Meerket – for now at least.

The way it works is this: After downloading the app, a user can start taking a real time video or selfie of whatever is happening at the moment, and a link to that video will be distributed on Twitter to all of that user’s followers. Other users can choose to watch the video or not, but it is only available in real time, and until the original user stops filming.

We immediately saw why this is catching on. It captures the immediacy of what is happening right now where I am, but the catch is that you have to watch right now. Watch now or you’ll miss it.

Meerkat’s Terms of Service clearly state that users must be 13 years old, but there is nothing stopping a Twitter user younger than 13 from downloading the app.

In terms of age appropriate content, as we mentioned above, Twitter’s rules apply, which are very lax. Adult content including nudity is permitted, as are drug and alcohol references and other things that aren’t appropriate for young users. That will only be an issue for your teen if she chooses to follow people on Twitter who post inappropriate videos, but it could happen. In the words of one New York Times columnist:

Meerkat looks like fun, and it will probably be either a minor hit or a major one. We’ll be watching to see whether it descends into being something that is decidedly not safe for teens.


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