Have you been indundated with requests to connect on Meow Chat? Yet another instant messaging service, this one offered through Facebook, on itunes and google play also allows contacts with randoms, so it’s kind of bringing in some of the dating/hook up/meet up aspects of Tinder along with aspects of WhatsApp. MeowChat claims to already have over 1,000,000 users!
What is disappointing to me is that yet another app is launched onto the market without much need seen for explaining how it works, who its suited for and how to stay safe with it. The very first thing that has happened for many is that upon downloading the app, people accept the “want to send a request to all your facebook friends” question to “build their network” and instantly they have given the app access to all their friends and the spam begins!
There are even anti meow chat twitters starting up due to the inundation of people allowing all their contacts to be sent a request! Perhaps this kind of release just might do more damage than good to the apps reputation(see slightly sanitised version of a twitter search illustrated!).
As with any App its important to look at what the app does, who might be getting access to your information, whose information you are also giving away and any risks to the more vulnerable in our community, particularly our children.
This app in particular has a very cute little kitty cat – so it’s going to have broad appeal especially to the younger children, the very ones we really don’t need on an app that allows random chat.
Here are a few points I would encourage you to consider before downloading.
- The App is free – so expect advertising, be wary of third party links
- It has built in location features to allow you to connect with “new people nearby” which is always a risk for younger children although it states it only locates a person within the nearest city of
100,000 people .
- It encourages random one on one chats
- The app seeks to find “similar” people to connect you with, based on your likes – this is very risky where children are concerned particularly
- It’s rating is 12+ and includes mild/infrequent mild sexual content and nudity (definition of “mild” will depend on the individual)
- It is possible to share pictures, voice messages and video
- I could not find a statement relating to what they do with data apart from a rather generic reference to not releasing personal data.
- Be aware that when you allow an app to access your friends lists, you are really spamming them with an invite they may not wish to have. Avoid clicking on automatic invites to friends.
I would highly recommend that parents in particular have conversations with their children about the use of such an app and the risk that might arise from “random” meet ups. Ensuring they do not give away their personal details, full name and location is really important for their safety. That 13 year old your 12 year old thinks they are talking too might well be an adult lurking. Other areas to consider relate to linking to other social sites, such as Tumblr. Tumblr has a lot of content that is not suitable for younger children so it is important to make sure you know which sites your child is linking up to and just what they might be exposed to. Tweaking your child’s phone settings and turning off location/gps for the app is recommended.
A few sites I found discussing the app said there was already a lot of harrassment towards girls and sexual behaviour associated with the app.
If you don’t want to receive invitations, head over to your facebook page, click on the GAMES tab (under Apps on left hand side), find a meow chat request and click on the X. You should then see an option to block further requests. You can do this for any other app you are being sent requests for also.
Have you already been invited? Do you think you will use this app?
Fiona Lucas is the founder of iRespectOnline. She is passionate about helping small businesses to grow, thrive and build reputation online. Fiona is an ethical marketer providing bespoke online marketing strategies to enable businesses to leverage social media for growth. Underpinning everything she does, as Australia’s first online reputation evangelist she is passionate about driving social change towards a more respectful online environment.
She was named in Mamamia’s Top 50 women to watch online 2013, Finalist Geelong Small Business Awards 2017 – Social Media Influencer and is a virtual community manager for Social Media Marketing World. Fiona presents on digital futures, cybersafety and digital marketing.
Fiona is the author of Futureproof Your Kids – a parents guide to the social media playground.