Everything online is moving towards video.
Perhaps this is due to our plummeting attention spans or our lack of desire to read on a screen. More likely, however, it is because our brains are wired to appreciate and engage with moving, talking, breathing, humans instead of edited selfies.
For children spending an increasing amount of time on their phones, they too, find themselves hungry for true interaction. Coupled with their young soul’s natural desire to meet and make new friends, children are now gravitating to “Random Video Chat” apps.
One app gaining popularity, is Holla.
This app, similar to the Random Video Chat apps, allows the user to meet new people from all around the world over video chat for a designated amount of time.
Its iTunes profile claims, “With one tap, we match you with one of the 7 billion beautiful souls out there to start a video chat. It is super exciting, you never know who you’re going to meet next with just one swipe!”
Its Google Play profile touts, “With 10 million users around the world and creating more than 2 billion matches, Holla is the best place to instantly meet fun people all over the world.”
A few of Holla’s counterparts are: Monkey (which Holla has recently acquired), Omegle, Chatroulette, Kiwi, LivU, Skout, Cake, and Instachat.
For many (if not most) children, their entire lives revolve around the smartphone. Quite literally, their smartphones are at the core of their social circles. Even with snaps, memes, texts, posts, and stories filling their screen everyday they can grow bored of the same ole people doing the same ole thing.
Children, especially teens, crave adventure and thrive on daring activities. Imagine adolescent or teen friends hanging out together bored. Video chatting with random people all over the world for a few minutes is sure to create some laughter and excitement.
And since children’s brains are not able to process consequences like an adult’s brain can, any app that sounds fun and daring is a go!
All of this combined with children’s innate desire for IRL (in real life) human connection, random chatting apps like Holla fit the bill completely.
The Draw Backs
It doesn’t take much for a parent to imagine how random video chatting with people can be dangerous. Nonetheless, here are a few laid out for you:
Connecting over video with some random person. As one review on iTunes states: This is a pedophiles heaven….the amount of perverted old creeps and children that use this is insane.
The app’s ability to stay connected as ‘Friends’ allows sex traffickers to use this app to lure in young girls.
Terms of Service states the user must be 13 to create an account per COPPA law. They also state the account should be with parent’s permission under age 18 due to opportunity to view unknown content.
The app, however, has no age verification methods so a nine year-old (who is lying about their age) could easily be connected with a 35 year-old. Frankly, even a thirteen year-old girl connected with an eighteen year-old boy could deliver risky content.
Holla’s Terms of service states they can monitor for nudity, weapons, etc but they don’t have to.
RIGHTS YOU GRANT THEM
Every one of these random video chatting app’s terms of service grants the app the right to retain all content used through it’s services.
Remember, the app is free to use, therefore the user is the product – not the consumer.
One more thing for today’s youth to be doing on their phone. According to Holla themselves, the app is so addicting because:
*Real people – all users are 100% real, get ready for butterflies in your stomach!
*Instant and free matches – time is $, match in seconds, and it’s free!
*BFF time – the first ever random video chat to allow you to team up with your BFF and match!
*Endless options – haven’t found the right one? Just swipe up and move on!
*Magical filters – try out our filters and look fabulous!
The app developers of Holla state they are using AI to more personalize the user’s experience. “A matching algorithm takes into account things like gender, age, location, device, or past behavior………and image recognition is deployed in real time to detect smiles to identify if the user is having a good time.”
AI seems like a wonderful science to exploit but when it comes to our children’s future, there is no telling where it could lead.
The Bottom Line
The app is rated 17+ by both iTunes and Google Play and rightly so. This is unnecessarily inviting predators directly into your home and child’s life.The app developers talk it up as the fun and exciting to entice children but do not be fooled.
No child under 18 should be using this app.
Talk to your child about Random Video Chatting apps like Holla. Do they have friends who use it? Can they imagine or even rationalize why this could be dangerous?
Set the standard for your child by discouraging their use on any such app (on their device or a friend’s). Ensure they understand the potential dangers for themselves and their friends. It isn’t that you are trying to spoil the fun, but simply because apps like these are unnecessarily dangerous at their age.
Protect the boundary by limiting your child’s ability to download apps without your permission.