It’s called Flinch and the idea behind this new app echoes an innocent childhood game: Stare at the other person across from you, keep a straight face, and the first person to smile or laugh, loses the match.
Sounds like oodles of fun, right? Not if the other player live- streaming to your phone is a stranger who could be any age, from any country, and say or do anything in the course of this “game.”
Yes, anything thanks to live streaming video and audio.
Let’s be clear, it’s never the app but rather, the bored, mean, seedy people using the apps that take all the fun out of things for everyone else.
The app, which is now being downloaded and applauded by curious teens, is definitely gaining traction as more of a hook-up app. While Flinch features some awesome, advanced facial expression technology (it detects who smiles first and issues a win), my short time using this app sent it straight into the red zone when it comes to family safety.
The app might be okay if a user could do a real-time stare down with only an approved friend list. However, Flinch has the option to either: Play a Friend OR Make a Friend it’s the latter that takes this fun game into the danger zone and opens the doors to instantaneous connection to strangers . . . around the globe.
Other red flags around this app:
- Random users can track your user name and your location if geo-location is on. That means a user—from anywhere in the world—can locate your child’s school, home, or workplace.
- Users can easily take screen shots of other users and then essentially use the photos however they wish.
- Many of the randomized “make a friend” users I encountered while testing the app were men ages 20-40 who appeared to speak very little English. Most were flirtatious. (Go figure—no one wanted to play the staring game).
- Flinch could be—and by all appearances already is—an easy platform for cyberbullies, predators, or criminals to gain access to targets.
A few of the negative user reviews include:
“Good overall. Just be aware that some people are on there just to be jerks.”
“Great at first. Well I guess it was to be expected that I would see something I did NOT want to see.”
“…of course there will be racist comments, rudeness and etc, not from everyone but from the stupid immature…”
“I was really surprised at how much hatred there is talking face to face with a stranger.”
The iTunes store has this app rated 4+ (meaning it contains no objectionable material), which is clearly misleading. And, it’s categorized under “Gaming” when it should be a social network, which it clearly is.
Frankly, the instant streaming video of strangers on my iPhone 6-plus screen was acutely creepy. I shudder to think of my teenage daughter meeting some of the characters that came up on my phone. (If you realllly need to see some of the very real screenshots from this app, just type ‘Flinch app’ into the search bar on Twitter. You will get the hodgepodge of users and images that will quickly convince you—kids and teens don’t need this app.
If your teen is using this app take the time to review the red flags and consider, together, the many features that make it a bad idea.
A final reminder: If you want to play the staring game, skip the app and go old school with some face-to-face fun!
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family.
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