Rabbit

 
App Review – Rabbit

Threat Level – Moderate 

Rabbit is described as the next generation conferencing app. The idea all began back in February of 2013 with an app for the Mac. A year later they launched their website and included the web based client. By 2015, Rabbit was being noticed and became one of the top video conferencing app while beginning to create their mobile app for phones and tablets. In October of 2015 the app went live on the Apple App Store and continues to pick up momentum. 

So what is Rabbit?
Rabbit is a chat room / video conferencing app that allows its users to share a website in their chat screen so that they can shop together or watch videos such as you tube or Netflix and basically any other website. It is a way to chat and share with the other person while you both viewing the same website in your chat room. Rabbit describes itself as a great way to hang out and watch a movie with your long distance partner. So how does this work? You could basically describe this as a texting app similar to KIK, wechat, or whatsapp with a web browser at the top of your screen. So there is chat room at the bottom and web browser at the top of your screen. It allows chatting while watching whatever is in the web browser at top of screen. You can share your “Rabbitcast” with a quick copy of a link and send to others. 

Once you download Rabbit, it requires you to created an account. Like most apps now you can either use your Facebook account to login or create a username and password with your email address. Once you fill out for login, or click login with Facebook then you are ready to invite others to chat. In my opinion, this app would be great if there was a long distance relationship and you wanted to watch a Netflix series together while chatting about it. As for your children, you would need to monitor the sharing very close. One thing I did notice, Rabbit does not filter adult sites. So anything that has a website can be shared and chatted about in chat room at the same time for multiple chatters to view.

I gave this app a moderate threat level due to the app being able to access any website to share. Monitor this one closely and ask your children what they are sharing while chatting if you allow them to use this app. 

App description – bunny, rabbit, orange, white, white rabbit, white bunny 

Musical.ly


App Review – Musical.ly

Threat Level – Moderate

Musical.ly is an app developed by the same named company. Musical.ly is available for mobile markets on App Store, play store and Amazon store. They took an app that was originally generated as a lip sync app to allow you to select songs to sing along with and put a social twist on it.

 
When you launch the app, similar to other socially connected apps, you are required to either create an account or sign in with your Facebook login. The app will then set your account up with a username. For example @aarony. This username style is similar to Twitter. Once your account is setup, you are ready to record and post your videos. The app allows you to select a song from the library inside the app and then let’s you speed up or slow down as you lip sync and record your song. After your video is made, you can post it to your user page. At this point, others can follow you and like your videos. One thing to remember, the account is created unlocked and you have to change it to private. I figured this out the hard way after I was testing app and made myself a video singing to Lionel Richie (which was pretty bad) and noticed two strangers had already liked my video for some reason. I am not sure who would ever like my rendition of a Lionel Ritchie song, but they did.

 
The videos after recorded are saved under your page with whatever hashtag you want to make it easier for people to find. As I looked through the videos however, I did noticed there was a lot of people that actually didn’t lip sync songs, they made other kinds of videos. There were several videos trending and one that caught my attention was a hashtag labeled #unicornchallenge. This was a viral video of different kids of videos from around the world doing the unicorn challenge. If you are wondering what this is, the unicorn challenge is when you take an ice cream cone and press it against your forehead. The cone makes what looks like a unicorns horn, hence the name unicorn challenge. Kids have added music to different unicorn challenge videos and are doing it in public at lobbies of fast food restaurants. They’re also other trending hashtags that are in the trending page such as Grammy awards and snowvids (snow videos). While browsing through other people’s videos whether trending or not, I did notice a lot of what appeared to be kids, but did not see any sexually explicit content. The app does have filter for sexual related searches which is great on their part. The company seems to be trying to make a respectable community of video sharers with proper filters for young adults.

 
One thing to remember about Musical.ly is that the app calls its users ‘Musers’ and will show you top ‘Musers’ of the app. On one of the menu options, it gives the user the top ‘Musers’ list with the top poster getting over 2 million likes. This app is slowly growing as more children find out about it. The popularity is growing daily.

 
As for the rating, I am going to give a moderate threat level. Most of the posts that were viral were legit hashtags and silly videos like the unicorn challenge. I feel you should still make sure that your child’s account is locked down so that everyone cannot access their videos and also to monitor their social side of app to make sure strangers don’t become obsessed with following every post your child makes. We have to remember as parents to follow our children’s online social life just as close as we do their physical one.

 
App description – red circle, red and white, white squiggly line, audio line, white red with line, audio, lip sync app

VSCO

  

App review- VSCO

Threat Level- Moderate
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VSCO is an app developed by a company called Visual Supply Company. It appears this is the only app they currently have running actively on the Apple IOS App Store and Google Play store. They describe their self named app VSCO as the standard of mobile photography. So you are probably asking yourself, what is a picture editing app doing on a social media app review site. Let me explain.

Sometimes apps you find on your child’s devices will be photo or video editing apps. Kids love adding filters to their photos, effects or stickers to their photos before posting them to their favorite social media apps such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. We have seen over the years with Instagram and Snapchat the addition of filters inside the app so that the user does not need to use other apps on their phone to add or change the photo such as VSCO offers. This is a popular trend. However we cannot forget about those stand alone apps such as VSCO that have social ties to them. There are other popular photo sharing sites or apps such as photobucket and Imgur, but they offer storage for pics more than many editing features. 

VSCO is a free app available on mobile markets that takes photo editing and storage to the next level. You can identify apps that have social ties versus the ones that don’t usually by the need to create an account when you first launch them. As you will see in VSCO, you are encouraged to login before you use editing features. The wording of this app to encourage an account when you first open it states- 

‘Create and publish your grid, journal and collection- find and follow other creatives in our community.’

This login process that is encouraged and sometimes required on some apps is because they want to give you a great photo editing experience, but want you to save your account online for other people to view. They offer free storage for these photos, but your children need to make sure these pictures are not shared as public. The features inside the app allow for excellent photo editing, exploring other photo editors and the ability to share and follow other people that use VSCO, just make sure they are not sharing public photos of themselves if you find the app on your child’s device. 
Each VSCO account has a link to the users page where all their photos can be shared and viewed. You will see sometimes on Twitter profiles or Instagram profiles a link to the users VSCO account. You will recognize it as a link similar to this 

VSCO.co/aayarnell 

Of course this is not an my actual VSCO account, but an example of what you will see in users social media profiles linking their VSCO account. I have seen Instagram accounts where the user has done great job on locking their account down to only friends being approved being able to see their photos and then having a link to their VSCO account on their profile page being wide open with hundreds of public pictures just a click away without any approvals. This is what you must watch for and look at on your child’s account. 

I gave this app a moderate threat level due to the social ties of this app. Make sure your child’s VSCO account is not wide open for anyone to pull their photos online. All you have to do is pull up their VSCO account online or follow their link if they have one in their other social media profile pages to see if you can openly view their photos. Openly discuss this app with them and make sure they understand what photos they are sharing and how they are doing it before they get to involved with using this photo editing, social media app. This is a great app for editing, but make sure the social side of sharing is locked. I have seen on several accounts, the user not knowing the account is locked down and it being an innocent error, but innocent errors could lead to your child’s pics being open on the Internet. We do not want our children’s pictures shared publicly. 

App description – white, white app with black lines, graph, black squiggly marks, atom, black lines white background

Meow Chat

  
App Review – Meow Chat

Threat Level – Very high


Meow Chat is an app developed by a company named Minus headquartered out of New York City. The company was backed by over 2 million dollars to launch a new style of mobile dating/chatting service which turned into Meow Chat. I did not find any other apps developed by this company which tells me they are working really hard to polish Meow Chat for its users.

So what is Meow Chat? The app Meow Chat describes itself as a fun way to chat and meet new friends. It does have a 17+ rating so they intend for adults to use this app and not children. On reviewing Meow Chat, it reminded me a lot of Tinder style layout with a mix of Grindr and Whatsapp (2 similar chat/dating applications ). Make no doubts about it, this app is a dating/hookup/chatting with strangers app. This app also allows instant chatting with strangers from around the world. With the similarities of Tinder, the main difference is Tinder seems to match more on location as Meow Chat uses interests in your profile to help match users. Now you see why children should not be using this app. Thinking of children and chatting with strangers does not go together.  Meow chat is available on all major mobile markets for download and has a very easy sign in process. You link up Meow Chat with your Facebook profile or create a login with an email address. You can then chat to existing friends by inviting them to join or find new chat partners from around the world. I did notice a lot of accounts while I was testing the app that were outside the United States. On setup it does send you a confirmation Thank you for signing up email. Be looking for this of you monitor your children’s email accounts. 

As soon as you login, clicking Random Chat throws you into a random chat room where you can talk publicly and get to know people for a private chat session or the explore feature will show you a map of other Meow Chat users around you or have similar interests as you. You can scroll through profiles that shows 3 of the users pictures along with a one line intro. I saw intros as innocent as Let’s Chat to the other end of spectrum saying What would you do with me. It doesn’t take long to see exploring profiles there are some that are explicit while others are safe. I had mentioned how this app looks and feels like Tinder. The way it shows profile pics for you to like or chat with is similar. Tinder focuses purely on hooking people up by location, whereas Meow Chat goes one step further and finds people with the same interests as you. 
Meow Chat claims to be the “fastest growing social network with millions of members from every country”. Its Google Play page states that it has been downloaded 10 million times on Android alone. It is free to download but you can purchase coin packs inside the application that allows you utilize advanced features inside the app. 

Meow Chat promotes mature conversations and warns users that their account will be suspended for inappropriate behaviour. You can report another user, bygo on their profile by tapping their image and tap ‘Report User’. You can also click ‘Block User’ to stop them from communicating with you. If you continue to have an issue There is also an email address to contact Meow Chat at hello@meow.me.
As I discussed earlier, this app is rated for adults and children should not be using this application. If you see this one on your child’s device, delete it immediately and find out who they have been chatting with. Children should not be using Meow Chat. 

App description – yellow cat, cat, cat chat, meow, cat, cat chat bubble, yellow chat bubble, bubble, yellow

Periscope

App Review – Periscope

Threat Level – Very High

Periscope is an app available on the mobile market for Android and Apple devices. Periscope was launched in January 2015  as start up company that had originally named the app Bounty. Twitter then purchased the app Bounty and renamed Periscope.  Rumors had the acquisition at over 50 million. On August 12, 2015, Periscope released their subscriber and user base at over 10 million accounts. They also noted over 40 years of video was being watched per day!

So now for the what in the world is Periscope section of my review. Periscope is an app that utilizes you twitter account for login and then allows you to view or broadcast live videos from across its app platform. When you first launch the app, it does require access to your Twitter account. If you do not have one, you can make one from inside the app in just a few steps. this is important to remember because if you are going to let your children use the Periscope app, they now will be introduced to Twitter and will need a Twitter login for Periscope.

Once you log in, the interface is pretty easy and self explanatory. There is a map at the top of screen and then trending broadcast in the middle of the people you have selected to follow. The options at the bottom are pretty easy to figure out. The four icons at the bottom of app home screen are displayed as icons.   You are already on the first one (icon is TV with rabbit ears) This just shows you who you are following and quick access to their broadcasts with a map on top of locations of broadcasts.

The next icon is a map (icon is a picture of earth) of North and South America that shows you red dots of where people are currently live broadcasting from. You will see numbers inside the red dots that tell you how many broadcasts are currently in that area. Once you zoom in, then the dots will start to spread out to allow you to view individual ones. I did notice on setup, the app wants your location so it can show you live broadcasts that are around you.

The Third icon is for your own broadcast. When you select this, you will get a menu that you must allow the app to use your camera, microphone and location. This is obviously for the ability to record your streaming video with audio, and to give people your location so that others can watch your broadcast around you.

The last icon is the People page (icon is 3 people silhouetted) This is the page that will show you all your followers or who you are following. Since it uses your Twitter account, you will automatically see others that you are following on twitter or who are following you. It shows you a brief bio, then gives you a plus to add them to your periscope following (That is if they are broadcasting)

On viewing another broadcast after you search for one to watch, you are able to see a live video feed of the person streaming their broadcast. When I downloaded the app and began to use it last night, there was a hurricane coming through Mexico. There were a lot of people live broadcasting the storm and talking about it. While you are watching the live streams of other people, you are able to comment to communicate back and forth with them, and also touch your screen to give them likes. When you like them, hearts will float off the top of page. You will see others doing the same thing and the hearts will float up off the top of screen.

We knew this day was coming with streaming videos and broadcasting live. With growing internet speeds and the popularity of Instagram and Snapchat, someone was going to take on the live feed. I gave this app high threat level and not a very high. Obviously it is going to have to at least get a high level due to the fact that you do not know what the other person is going to say or suggest on. Periscope/Twitter does a pretty good job of removing or banning inappropriate feeds it appears from the other forums I have read about this app while studying for my review. But, they cannot always bump something immediately. While I was watching different feeds, I didn’t stumble across anything that was visually inappropriate, but some people were using harsh language and some sketchy topics they were discussing that i probably would not want my kids watching. This app will have to be monitored close. See who you kids are following and why they are following them. I seen several Video Game review broadcasts from searching the net and other Technology base broadcast. I also seen broadcasts where people were just sitting in their living room, just trying to chat with people.

If you are going to let your child use Periscope, I would suggest to monitor them while using and explain to them the dangers that are obviously behind live broadcasts. This is probably not an app I would want my kid using behind closed doors, due to not knowing who they are watching and chatting with live. I did not find any credible articles of criminal offenses occurring because of this app, but you will need to Monitor them closely with Periscope. There were several sexual related streams online when I reviewed. 
Periscope, Twitter, Video app, broadcast, live, live broadcast, map icon, blue with white and red dot, blue, white, red dot, gps, map icon, map, maps,

Roblox

  
App Review – Roblox
Threat Level – Low

Roblox is a game application developed by a company called Roblox Corporation. They are only working on this gaming app at the moment. 

Roblox takes a step towards the ever growing community of mixing social media and video games. Video games has had a lot of social interaction ever since I was a kid.  However, back then we would have to go to each other’s houses and play 2 player mode. I remember when Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64 came out with 4 player multiplayer. We were absolutely thrilled. Wow have times changed. With the growth of the Internet, faster connection speeds and mobile gaming and not to mention all gaming consoles connecting to the Internet, social gaming is just the ‘norm’ now. 

I received an email about Roblox from a parent with the curious 9-10 year old wanting to play it because their friends are. As a parent of four, we hear that a lot. I had never heard of Roblox so I was happy to help out, download the game, and give it a review. 

Let’s start out with, What is Roblox?

Roblox is what we like to call a digital sandbox. Roblox is an app available for free on all the major app stores and is a video game with a social media tie. When you launch the app, it will give you the option to just play or to login and connect to play the game. Let’s start with the ‘just play’ feature. This doesn’t require any setup. When you select this option you are then sent to the select a game screen. The way this app works is it lets the players make their own games with a cookie cutter type programming. So you will start to see games that you can play inside the app developed by the players themselves,  categorized by style and genre.  Technically this not just one game, but hundreds of games inside one app.   This is a very neat concept and to be honest, I have already started creating one just for the fun of it (to create a game for Roblox however you will need to download the Roblox Creator app). The games that other users have designed for the app could be a little suggestive with Zombies or Cops vs Robbers style games, but I didn’t see anything that was really bad that I wouldn’t want my kids to see. The company does an excellent job in filtering the games and they even have a parents menu that answers all your questions.

If you select the option to create an account with a username, then you can even vote on the games you like and become more connected with forums and chats.  To create a user account, it does require and email address, username (selected by yourself), sex and age questions. Once created it will send a confirmation email. 

There is a chat feature inside the game that has different levels and can be controlled in settings. There are 2 chat modes. Under 13 and over 13.  Of course this is decided on setup when they enter birthday, but can be changed in settings. The under 13 chat words have to be selected from a list for comments verses the over 13 chat which is open. Roblox does however moderate all comments and filters comments that are innapropriate. 

Roblox offers many different games once you launch the app to choose from that are all original and made by other Roblox users. This gives the app a new approach on giving players control. 

I gave the app a low threat level and with proper moderation, this should be safe for players of all ages. The moderation by the company and their dedication to Internet safety is excellent. Thumbs up to Roblox.

Chance

 
 App Review – Chance

Threat Level – Very High

Chance is an app by a company called Just.me and is a chatting app designed to allow users to easily chat with complete strangers. We are seeing a growth in similar apps that you can download and chat with other people that you don’t know. The terrifying part of that is the ease of the app setup. Anyone can download the app for free and be chatting with a complete stranger in minutes. 

Chance app describes itself as an app for meeting new friends from around the world. It will introduce you to random strangers, you decide whether to chat with them or not. The app even encourages you to take a ‘Chance’. And you will be chatting with someone new. If you like them, you can get to know them even better and exchange pictures and texts. One of the developers mottos is ‘even your best friend was a stranger at some point’. 

As a parent, thinking about my child chatting with strangers from around the world is terrifying. Keep an eye out for this one because consenting adults should be the only ones using this. 

App description – blue, white, mask, white mask