Is the Monkey App safe?
A complete app review for parents.
What is the Monkey App?
Description: The Monkey app allows kids to have fun chats with new people from all over the world. Users are randomly matched with other users for a brief, introductory video call. When matched with a new person, you can add more time or add the person on Snapchat to continue the connection.
According to the owners of the Monkey App, “We want to create the new hangout spot for Gen Z where genuine face-to-face conversations are being fostered, instead of chasing brief and shallow social exchanges like collecting likes on Instagram.”
Corporate website: https://monkey.cool/
Category: social networking (useful for OpenDNS)
APP Store rating: 12+ (but this is WAY too young – it should be 17+ or “adult only”) and the generic words used to describe the app in the App Store below aren’t accurate:
What parents need to know about the Monkey App
For an app that caters to teens, there’s no age verification. We are more and more of the opinion that apps who cater to kids must have some sort of age verification in place in order to provide a safer environment for young users, but Monkey doesn’t have any of this.
Bullying and user safety are monitored. The app is trying to do the right things. In fact, the app’s owners called us at Protect Young Eyes (which we appreciated) in order to make sure we clearly understood the extent of their efforts to keep their community safe. They claim to have 24/7 content moderation (https://monkey.cool/safety).
No real privacy. Teens who use the app will be sharing three types of information, including personal information (name, profile picture, date of birth), user contributed content (the photos, texts, videos, and screen shots shared with other users), and automatic information (browser, I.P. address). Each of these is covered in the App’s Privacy Statement and has different levels of protection.
In summary, Monkey does collect a lot of data about its users and shares all three types of information with third parties as needed. Teens need to remember that nothing is private and there’s always a risk that what is done is secret could be made public. This statement from their privacy statement summarizes this thinking:
Due to the inherent nature of the internet and related technology, we do not guarantee the protection of information under our control against loss, misuse, or alteration.
– Monkey Privacy Statement: https://monkey.cool/privacy
The app’s ecosystem (look and feel) resembles Snapchat, which makes it comfortable for kids to use.
Sexualized content is possible. The app’s owner explained in great detail the steps the app is taking to analyze and moderate potentially sexualized content in the app. They currently engage two image recognition companies to scan user content for anything inappropriate. This is a great step.
But, we’ve received emails from very concerned parents about what their children are being exposed to. One mom told us her daughter was contacted by a man who sent her a video of him masturbating to her videos. Another dad said, “Within 10 minutes of logging into this app my child was inundated with sexual requests, mostly by men of age 19 to 29. This is a very unsafe app for kids.”
There’s only so much that can be controlled.
Anonymity = good thing/bad thing. This is both a benefit and a detriment. The app’s creators want Monkey to be a place where kids who might benefit from finding a listening, non-judgmental ear is there for them (they shared a few comments from users who struggle with bullying who found solace in the app), but we just don’t believe that most teens have the wisdom to know how to navigate anonymous environments.
The bottom line: Is the Monkey App safe for teens?
Parents, we just don’t think teens need this app. Although we appreciated the information shared by the app’s creators and the efforts they’re taking to protect kids, we can’t condone random conversations among teens.
If you want greater control over all of the apps that your kids might be using, then be sure to control the App Store on the device they use.
Related Post: 3 Reasons for Turning off the App Store