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Meerkat, YouNow, Periscope & The Kardashians

john_logie_baird_and_mechanical_television-1On April 30, 1939, the first regularly scheduled US television broadcast began from the New York World’s Fair. The grainy, black and white image from NBC was powerfully beamed from an antenna atop the worlds’ tallest building at the time — the Empire State Building. After spending millions of dollars and thousands of man hours to make this broadcast possible, less than 100 households probably saw the program.

Now, seventy-six years later, from the comfort of just about anywhere with a wi-fi or carrier LTE connection, you can broadcast yourself in high definition video to potentially millions of viewers for free. What a difference a quarter of a century makes.

With the avalanche of smartphones and tablets; and availability of wireless broadband connections, video apps have flourished over the last few years. Given we live in a somewhat narcissistic “Kardashian” society, these apps grew slowly in 2013 with the introduction of YouNow, and then exploded recently with the introduction of Meerkat and Periscope.

Add to the fact that teens are often self-absorbed – and you have a recipe for parental concern.

SO WHAT’S THE POINT OF THESE APPS?

All three of these apps allow users to live broadcast any time from anywhere. Sleeping in your bed… why not broadcast it live?

Working at a cash register all day? Broadcast your interactions live.

Having a party you want the world to see? Invite the world to be a witness.

Yes you can let the world see every intimate detail of your life… in real time.

meerkatWHAT’S REQUIRED

In the case of Meerkat and Periscope, you or your child need an iPhoneiPod Touch or iPad to broadcast. But they’ll likely add Android soon.

However, YouNow can accommodate both Apple mobile devices and Android.

In each case, you simply download the app… register your account and start broadcasting.

HOW DO YOU BROADCAST?

Since Periscope is owned by Twitter, once the app is downloaded, you can simply broadcast live from your Twitter feed. Meerkat and YouNow require that you access the app each time to wish to broadcast.

Once ready, you simply turn the camera toward the action and start your session.  One quick note: In the case of Meerkat and YouNow, once the session has ended the video is no longer accessible. However, Persicope records the video and makes it available for 24 hours. In each case, the broadcaster may record the video to their device and subsequently upload it to Youtube, Vine or other platforms.

SHOULD I BE CONCERNED

Since these video-feeds are live, it means you or your child might be exposed to violence, sexual content, and inappropriate language — there are no filters. So beware.

Moreover, only YouNow has a true block feature – allowing you to block content or content producers that you find objectionable.

Since it’s live, privacy is an issue. You are showing the world “your world.”. Moreover, if you provide your location in the feed the world knows where you are.

All three platforms allow users to comment or “like.” Many of the comments are hurtful, sexually charged and at times hateful.

As we mentioned, YouNow provides a REPORT feature if someone is posting inappropriate videos. Periscope allows REPORTING through its Twitter Report function. However, it remains to be seen if it is well integrated. Meerkat currently has no REPORT functionality.

Meerkat’s top producers are often scantily clad young women talking about their day or preparing food. Go figure.

All three forbid nudity, sexual content, and bullying in their Terms of Use —  but there’s no promise or practical means of oversight. Offended by profanity? Hold your ears and close your eyes.

Additionally,  Periscope offers a permanent record of who watched your broadcast. Kind of creepy? From the “even creepier department”  the app displays a map of your location while watching your favorite broadcasters.

Video quality for all three apps is adequate, but not really high-def. But if you’re paying the phone bill understand that video streaming uses a lot of data. That is not a problem when you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. But if Junior is broadcasting using your carrier’s cellular data plan, you’re looking at a significant expense.

HOW CAN I ADDRESS THESE APPS WITH MY FAMILY

Remember, social media opens up the world to your child – and your child to the world.

  • Talk to your child about the risks of showcasing their world to the world.
  • Discuss the impact of inappropriate and hurtful content on these and other apps.
  • Define what material is appropriate to share with others… and what is not.
  • Remind them that anything they broadcast might be recorded by others and distributed tomorrow, the next day, or ten years later (See: Curt Schilling, Twitter & The Legend of the Big Green Brain.)

Live, broadcast apps will grow in use by TV networks, news gathering organizations, entertainers and today’s youth. Like most technology, the issues are less likely the app – and most likely the use of the app.

MY RATINGS

  • I give all three apps a thumbs up for innovative technology
  • Thumbs down for inappropriate content
  • A Thumbs down for privacy.

Venture into these apps with caution.

You’ll hear much more about these types of apps in the months to come – as each fights to be the dominant provider of self-broadcasting. However, it is just a matter of time before broadcasters misuse these apps and suffer the consequences due to their lack of privacy, and the cutting and cruel critiques of their audience.

Although the first US TV broadcast was from the World’s Fair – today’s app broadcasters will eventually see and feel that the world’s not fair.

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