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Periscope: Don’t Let Strangers Spy on Your Child

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It seems everyday there’s a new app on the market promising to be the next big thing but only a handful stick around. Well, Twitter’s new livestreaming app, Periscope, may in fact be “the next big thing” and it appears to be here to stay. But an app that allows people to broadcast whatever they’re doing to a public map obviously poses a security issue for children and teens.

Because livestreaming is – well – live, it’s not easy to regulate what people put up. You can report a stream for being inappropriate and the user posting it could be banned as a result. But just scrolling through streams I could watch, I found several posts I wouldn’t want my child watching. For instance, one stream I saw was about visiting Colorado to smoke pot. To be fair, most of the streams are perfectly fine. They’re mostly of people talking about their day or walking around their town. But even the scopes (as they are sometimes called) that aren’t bad, will often get inappropriate comments. Women using Periscope often find themselves receiving lewd comments, regardless of what they’re actually talking about, and the app has relatively little you can do about it. Currently, all you can do is take a screenshot of the comment and email it to safety@periscope.tv. Not exactly the smoothest design for handling these problems.

scopes  map

But Periscope isn’t just dangerous because of what your child might find on the app. You also have to be aware of what your child could be sharing with the world. For starters, their location. You can toggle off “precise location sharing” but it defaults to the on position. And it really is more precise than our team expected. You can zoom in on a livestream’s location to within about a block of the person broadcasting. Any complete stranger, (predator or not) on the app could learn exactly where children using Periscope live.

If after all this, you’re still ready to let your teen use Periscope, you may want to go into the parental controls and turn off location sharing for this app. If you’ve never set up parental controls on an iOS device before, this article will help. Once you’re on the Restrictions page, scroll down and tap on Location Services. From here, you can scroll down to Periscope and change the settings from sharing “While Using the App” to “Never.” For Android devices, location sharing is all or nothing – you don’t get to choose which apps have permission and which don’t.

location services  location access never

Periscope has a lot of issues to fix if they want to have a safe, non-abusive environment on their app. But even with editing, the very purpose of the app is unsafe for children. Periscope advertises itself as a way of seeing what’s going on all over the world. That sounds like a really fun idea for adults, but there just isn’t enough control here for a kid.

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Comments

  • found your article because I was alarmed by what I saw on periscope when I checked it out last night. Lots of teen girls around the world trying to look pretty and attractive to their camera, enjoying the stream of hearts that flow out of the corner of the screen from watchers – sometimes with 100-150 people watching them. One girl around 12-13 was dancing around her living room in tank-top and shorts. Just enjoying herself and showing off. Blissfully unaware of the motives that some watchers might have.

    Just wanted to reach out and turn off her darned device. I just wanted to call her parents into the living room.

    It is the most perfect platform imaginable for human traffickers, child pornographers and individual rapists and peadophiles to SEE and SELECT a target, then befriend/groom/locate/abduct

    Really scary. I saw the lewd comments to girls in all the streams fly by onscreen to the various teens, but it’ll be the more sophisticated; people who pretending to be what they are not who use guile to befriend – that will be the most dangerous – much more so than IRC and without as much of a trail because of the live video element.

    I saw one girl had the stream going in her school classroom, device next to her facing backwards so the girl behind (who likely had not consented) was totally visable. Some watcher was asking who that girl was. Can imagine that from the contents of the classroom audio, someone could figure out what school they are in and talk to them in person at school gate and lure them into friendship.

    Very scary. I’d say do not allow these apps or websites AT ALL on equipment your child has access to.

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