The internet is amazing…it is a place we go to feel connected, to learn, to work, and to
dream. It can also be, however, a dangerous place—particularly for children who have not yet learned what is safe, what is not, and how to be a responsible digital citizen. And although it can bring many wonderful things to our parenting, the internet also brings challenges for parents, who struggle to keep up with the constantly changing landscape.
This week a new danger was brought to my attention by a friend that I believe parents need to know about.
It is called meepe.com and it is being touted as a “dating” site for kids—yes kids—and word about it is spreading like wildfire among young teens, tweens, and younger. However, if you Google it, you will come up empty-handed.
When you go to the site, which is about as primitive as a site can be, it shows you two black screens and asks for permission to access your camera and microphone. If you decline, you cannot use the site. If you grant permission, you are immediately connected to another user’s live feed at random. The site requires no account, no age verification, and no personal information to use.
When I went into the site, I was connected to a young boy of probably 8 or 9 years, who was looking up at his camera with interest. I did not engage and immediately exited the site. Another child that I know of was connected to the site and ended up “befriending” a 13-year-old boy and provided him with her phone number and email address. When she was no longer interested in connecting, this young teen would not leave her alone, and her parents had to step in to help her block him from contacting her.
Here’s where it gets particularly troubling: because there is no age verification, information gathering, or account required, anyone can use the site, regardless of who the intended market is. This makes a site like this even more dangerous than “normal” social media or gaming sites (though those entail risks as well).
This danger played out in full for another parent not long ago; concerned about what her child was accessing, she went onto the site one recent evening and was immediately connected to a live video of a man masturbating in full nudity. As an adult woman, she knew to immediately exit, but what about the next person—likely a child—who clicked “connect?”
This site, which likely violates several federal and state laws has been reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). But even if this one is taken down, another will likely arise, making the need for parental involvement, monitoring, and education just that much more critical. This is one I recommend saying "no" to, without reservation.
Updated to add:
After writing this article, the site was shut down temporarily while there were “not active moderators.” Here was the message from the administrators:
“Sorry for the inconvenience but we’re performing some improvements in to this websites [sic]. Key-facts: We are aware that the site has been abused by Pedophiles, Trollers and Perverts. We have reported many of the abusers to their local authority with all the details. They will be contacted soon. This site was not intend to use only for KIDS, but we have noticed that 80% users were below 18 years old. [sic] We are working on a secure authentication system where each users can be verified. Site will be placed on offline when there are not active moderators are at work.”
How the site is reporting abusers to their local authorities without having gathered any information about them is unclear; even with the IP address available, linking that to a specific person can prove very challenging. Further, even if damning content has been preserved in some way, abusers are likely global in scope making arrest and prosecution particularly problematic. Even with “active moderators” at work, given the primitive format of the platform, I have grave doubts that any moderator could shut down graphic content before a child is exposed, particularly if there is significant site traffic. In short, I highly advise against parents allowing their children to use this (or any similar) sites.