A reader in Michigan brought an alert circulating in her community about the website Meez to my attention. She received a warning from another parent saying that "even though [Meez] appears to be a kids game, there are different rooms that kids can get into. Some are innocent enough, but there are a LOT of very graphic, sexually explicit, and violent ones also."
So, is the website Meez safe for kids? Clearly there are folks in Michigan who think not, and it turns out that they are not alone.
Common Sense Media rates Meez as being acceptable for kids 15 and older. It cautions, "Parents need to know that although teens use Meez.com, most of the avatars' look- and identity-based accessories (such as the "shotgun wedding dress") have mature themes. Because photos posted in user profiles appear immediately, rather than going through any filtering, registered users could stumble across suggestive photos."
Common Sense Media does note that the site offers a possibility for creative self-expression when designing the online world. Like so much on the internet, it can be good, but both parents and kids need to be aware that there is a dark side.
Meez does state in its Terms of Service that users should be 13 years old or older. It also states that "Parents and guardians of Users under the age of 18 will be responsible for their minor User's use of the Service and any violation of this Agreement."
Time included Meez on its list of "5 Worst Websites." It does so for practical reasons, including "the 3-D animations and other digital doodads created with the help of Meez and other sites of its ilk . . . are just plain annoying. They also clog the recipient's inbox with unnecessary bits." Time added that "[t]he company insists the app is neither spyware nor adware, but it can still slow your computer down."
I think Meez illustrates the important point that a quick glance is not enough for a parent to approve a site or app for their kid. You have to play around on it, you have to do some research. Common Sense Media is my go to for apps and sites that are new to me - they give a great, quick overview. It honestly takes two minutes to check out something there. That's not onerous, and it is so important.
Also, even if you initially deem a website or app acceptable, it is worth revisiting frequently. Apps, websites and the way your children use them are continually evolving, requiring constant vigilance.
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Filed under: Technology