|The kids of YouNow|
We have our 14 year old niece with us for a week. This is a kid I love, and who I see a couple of times a year. She was smart, funny, athletic, did all kinds of sports.
Now, this year, not so much.
She spends nearly every minute on YouNow.com, a live streaming website and app that features hundreds of kids around the clock. They chat inanely to their followers, answer questions. They sometimes will be by themselves, always in their bedroom, or sometimes have sleepovers with friends and broadcast all night long.
Who follows these people? Well, other kids, obviously, but there are always comments posted under the video asking for things like: "Do the splits," "Kiss your friend," and "Show me your bare feet."
There are different "topics" like "girls," "guys," "dance," and the oddest, "sleepingsquad," which features kids 13 and above sleeping. And people watch it.
My niece tells me not to worry, that her mom thinks it's a "kick," but I drew the line last night when she was about to crawl into bed with the lights on and the camera phone operating all night.
Not in my house, I said.
I've watched over her shoulder for maybe a total of an hour this weekend and I'm so baffled and enraged and discouraged. There are moderators, and I guess if someone says "Show me your tits" enough times, they get "banned." The same people, my niece tells me, just change their user name and come back.
"Do you ever reply to these people?" I asked.
"I show my feet," she said. "I have pretty feet."
I told her mother about all this in a phone call and I think I laid it on thick enough that she might do something about it. "The world is full of creeps," I said.
These kids, though, I kept thinking about them. They're going to be in college soon - because most of them really do look 13-17. They have been broadcasting themselves to a "world" of strangers. They have fans. They get "gold bars" which convert into real money and gifts from their viewers.
I can't wait for the week to be over.
Here's an article from HuffPo
that does a better job of discussing the issues.
And here's a 13 year old girl twerking. During it she says, "Love me, love me." I wish I were making this all up. Screenshots all come from my niece who I'm taking out of the house today no matter what it takes.