Monkey is a social media app that is extremely popular with teenagers and children. Founded in 2016 by Ben Pasternak and his partner Isaiah Turner, the app was once the #1 app in the US Apple App Store.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely a parent whose teenage son or daughter has downloaded Monkey. Perhaps they mentioned it, or perhaps you found it on their phone and would like to know whether to allow it.
The truth is that Monkey can be risky for kids. I’ll explain why, but let’s first talk about what the Monkey app is in the first place and how it works.
You may have heard of Omegle, which was big back in the early 2010s. Omegle is a site where users get connected with random people on the internet via video + text chat.
Monkey is like an upgraded version of Omegle, but much better. In addition to random video chatting, it incorporates many other features.
In a way, Monkey is like Omegle, Instagram, Tinder, and TikTok combined. There are so many ways to connect with new people, so let’s go through the main ones.
What Monkey is most well known for is its random video chat feature. Once you download the app and create your account, you can start video chatting with random people online.
By default, each video chat lasts only 15 seconds. It is designed that way to give users a small window of opportunity to decide whether they want to keep chatting with the other person or not.
If you don’t like who you are chatting with, or if you feel like the conversation is not headed in the right direction, you can let the chat expire after 15 seconds.
Users can also add more time by pressing on the timer icon that shows up in each video chat.
In addition, if you liked the other person, you can add them as a friend.
A unique feature that the Monkey app offers is the ability to go on “duo chats” and get matched with two people. You and your friend can match with pairs of people – you two with another two.
Your friend doesn’t have to be physically present next to you for you to go on Monkey together. If you did, the feature wouldn’t be necessary.
Instead, you and your friend connect on the Monkey app first, regardless of where in the world you two are located. Then, you can start matching with pairs of friends who are doing the same thing.
If you don’t want to go on video, you can start chatting with random people over text. These chats are called “Knock Knocks” on Monkey.
You’ll be able to see the details of the person you are chatting with, including their name, profile picture, and location.
You can also click on their profile picture to see their entire profile, including any moments they have posted and their bio. More on that later, though.
To start the chat, simply send a message!
By default, chats expire after 24 hours, regardless of whether you had a great time chatting with each other.
However, if you add the other person as a friend before the 24-hour time limit is up, the conversation will not expire.
Have you ever used Tinder, Bumble, Badoo, or another swipe-based dating app? If you did, you’ll know how “Cards” work.
Tinder and other swipe-based apps present you with random profiles from people near you. If you like them, you swipe right; if you don’t like them, swipe left to pass on their profile.
If both of you swipe right on each other, you will match. You can then start chatting with each other.
“Cards” are pictures of people that you can swipe right or left on. If you and someone else swipe right on each other, you will match.
You can’t see the entire profile of the person you are swiping right on. You can see their picture, location, and zodiac sign.
The people who show up will be people who are nearby – from your city and perhaps surrounding cities. In that way, it is similar to Tinder and Bumble.
In effect, the “Cards” feature is kind of like a dating app, which is a bit unusual being that the Monkey app is geared towards young teens.
Not only that, but you can specify the gender of the profiles shown to you. You can choose either boys, girls, or both, which makes it even more like a dating app.
Monkey has stolen even more features from popular dating apps, such as the “Super Like” option that allows you to indicate that you like a particular person very much.
On Monkey, you can set up a personal profile and follow other people’s profiles. These profiles look somewhat like Instagram – the layout is strikingly similar.
Start by writing a small bio, which will go under your profile picture. You can add some details about yourself, your interests, your hobbies, and so on.
You can also add music you like. By default, your profile will also show your zodiac sign, which will be automatically calculated based on the birthdate you entered when signing up (you can change your birthdate, but only once).
You can then upload video moments, which are similar to Instagram posts and TikTok videos. On your profile, it will also be visible how many followers you have and how many people are following you.
Other things you can add to your profile include a “mood” and a profile song. When your profile shows up in the Cards section, your profile song will play automatically.
Social media, in general, can be dangerous for kids. One way Monkey makes itself a bit more safe than Instagram is that it allows people to verify themselves by uploading a selfie.
You can check if someone has verified their identity before following them to avoid catfishes.
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Monkey is mostly free, but there are some things that are limited to premium members. The premium membership is called Monkey+, and it gives you access to special perks.
One perk is the ability to see who liked you in Cards. That feature is similar to Tinder Gold, which allows you to see who already swiped right on you, so you can decide whether to swipe right on them too.
Otherwise, when you see profiles show up in Cards, you won’t know for sure whether they already liked you. You also won’t be able to see a list of people who already swiped right.
Monkey+ also unlocks five super likes a day in Cards. Members get 2,000 free coins a month – 500 at the beginning of the month and 50 new coins every day.
You can also purchase coins outright. You can use coins for things like super likes, gender preferences, and more.
Monkey+ subscribers can also see a user’s full profile in Cards before deciding whether to swipe right or left. Otherwise, you just see some basic information.
This isn’t really good, as it pressures kids to pay money to get better features. For example, when your kid sees that people liked them in Cards, they will be anxious to know who liked them.
If they have a debit card or credit card, they may spend their savings or allowance unnecessarily just to see who liked them.
Monkey is available from the Google Play Store on Android devices. It is not available on iPhones.
There was a time when Monkey was available on iPhones as well. However, the Apple App Store removed Monkey from its platform, which should tell you something about safety and security.
There is also a website – Monkey.app. The website allows you to video chat with random people from your laptop.
The web app also supports Duo video chatting. You’ll be able to send a special invite link to your friend, so they can join in on your chat.
According to Monkey, the minimum age to use the service is 13.
On the Google Play Store, however, Monkey is classified as being for a mature audience of 17+ only. Again, that tells us something about the safety of Monkey for young teens.
There are two problems, though. First of all, Monkey can be risky for young teens, even if they are over 13 – there are certain things that may be inappropriate on the app.
Furthermore, your child can use Monkey even if they are not 13. While Monkey requires its users to input their birthdate while signing up, there is nothing stopping a young child from putting in a fake birthdate to make the app think they are older than they are.
Monkey has no real way of verifying someone’s age.
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What’s so dangerous about Monkey? It is important to know the potential risks of using Monkey before you let your teen do so.
There’s no way around this: Regardless of the safety measures put into place by an app, chatting with randos online is a recipe for disaster, especially when we’re dealing with kids of 13 years of age.
You never know who you will be matched with. Such apps are breeding grounds for predators.
You also never know what the other person is going to show you on live video. While Monkey claims to monitor the content on the app, live video is particularly hard to regulate, as it is all happening in real time.
Thus, your teen might be exposed to things you don’t want them to see. Thirteen years old just isn’t really old enough for some things.
While there is a function to accept or deny a chat request before it starts, your teen won’t have any real way of knowing off the bat whether the profile is real. It could be a catfish, and a different person can show up.
Online bullying is a major issue, and Monkey is not exempt from the cyberbullying problem that plagues social media. That’s especially true when it comes to teenage kids.
Your teenager may get bullied by others on Monkey, and they won’t necessarily tell you or anyone about it. Victims of cyberbullying often suffer in silence, as they feel embarrassed or afraid to tell their parents or anyone else about what is happening to them.
The minimum age on Tinder is 18. Bumble’s minimum age requirement is also 18.
Monkey, on the other hand, claims it is safe for any teenager over 13.
Monkey will probably argue that it’s not a dating app. After all, the Cards feature is just for people to match with and find new friends, not romantic partners.
However, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, then it probably is a duck.
Let’s quickly review some of the features you’ll find when using Cards:
- It connects you with people nearby.
- You are allowed to choose which gender to match with.
- You don’t see much information about the person you’re swiping on, so you’re mostly going off their profile picture and physical attractiveness (you can only see their full profile if you pay extra).
Personally, I can’t see how you could pretend that Cards is only for finding friends. I’m sure many people use it for dating.
Since your teenager will be connecting with people who live nearby, that just increases the risk even more. They can be lured into meeting with someone who they think is just another teenager but who is really an adult and a predator.
When you open the Monkey app, it will immediately turn on your front camera.
I have a phone with a pop-up front camera (that sticks out when the front camera is turned on). Every time I open the Monkey app, my popup camera pops out.
Monkey is very pushy about making people show their faces, which isn’t really a good thing for privacy.
Monkey does have several policies in place to help keep its users safe. Let’s review them, as detailed on the Monkey App website, and see if those measures are adequate given that we’re talking about young teens here.
- Machine learning: Monkey uses machine learning to detect content that is sexual or otherwise violates its content policies.
- 24/7 monitoring: There is a team monitoring reported content round the clock.
- Email support: Monkey offers support via email and will work with police and other law enforcement agencies to resolve serious issues.
So, are these measures enough? I’m afraid not.
While machine learning is great, it’s not perfect. Monkey isn’t alone in using machine learning to monitor content, but machine learning often leads to mistakes and misses problematic content.
Furthermore, the monitoring team isn’t proactively monitoring content. Instead, it relies on users reporting problematic content.
While adding a reporting feature is certainly commendable, it really is the bare minimum. It’s simply the standard for any decent social media or dating app.
Relying on users to report content is a poor strategy, especially when dealing with young teens. If a 13-year-old is feeling threatened and unsafe, they may not report the content for fear of retaliation.
They can’t always tell a real threat from an empty threat apart.
Several organizations and newspapers have warned about the Monkey app and its dangers for children and teens.
Safer Schools, an organization based in Ireland that aims to keep school communities safer globally, released an alert in which it called Monkey “extremely dangerous.”
According to the safety alert, the issues go beyond the risks I already mentioned and get much worse. They include:
- Reviewers of the app found that one out of two or three users on live chat was a male member masturbating. No kid should have to see that.
- Bestiality and other harmful sexual content was found on the app.
- Ads for porn sites and other sketchy sites showed up on the app.
- A lot of the harmful content only appeared for a few seconds before disappearing. That means that the user seeing it wouldn’t have time to report it.
In other words, despite Monkey promising to monitor the content on the app and use machine learning to detect harmful content, it hasn’t been doing an excellent job.
The same alert was also published on the INEQE group website. It was picked up by major news sources like MSN.
According to the INEQE group, the organization doesn’t make the decision to issue safety alerts lightly. However, it has found that users are “highly likely to be exposed to extreme sexual content.”
According to a news report by CNBC, despite Monkey’s efforts to ban sexual content, it is turning into Chatroulette 2.0 (Chatroulette was a video chatting site known for the high amounts of sexual content found on it).
Finally, according to the Washington Post, reviewers of the app on the Apple App Store reported that it was inappropriate for teens due to sexual content targeting minors.
Does that sound like an app that is appropriate for 13-year-old kids? I’m guessing your answer is no.
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The Monkey App is available from the Google Play Store and on the Monkey.app website. However, while it used to be available on the Apple App Store, it has since been banned.
The most likely reason for it being banned is that there were too many reports of unwanted sexual harassment targeting minors. The Washington Post reported on this, as I mentioned above.
Apple probably decided that the app was unsafe and took it off the platform.
So, why does Google still have it? In general, Google is less strict about the apps it allows than Apple is, so it’s no surprise Google hasn’t taken it down.
However, that does not mean that it is safe.
If your child has the Monkey app, you should explain why they can not have access to it and delete it from their phone. You need to put your foot down and be strict about this.
While they may complain that their friends are using Monkey, your child’s safety comes first.
You can install a filtering app like Family Link on Android, which allows you to block certain apps and see what your child is doing on their phone.
Simply looking at who your child has been texting on the Monkey app isn’t enough. You won’t be able to tell what your child has been seeing while video chatting with random people.
I recommend that you don’t let your teen use Monkey, regardless of their age. There are better and safer apps out there.
At the same time, I’d say that 18 years old is the minimum. By 18, your teenager is already a legal adult and can make their own decisions; other apps like Tinder put the minimum age at 18 as well.
However, even 18-year-olds can still be exposed to harm on the app. You should teach your teenager about online safety, such as being wary of strangers and not agreeing to share personal details or meet in person.
My conclusion and the conclusion of organizations dedicated to the safety of kids is that no, Monkey is not safe for kids at all.
You are taking too many risks if you allow your child to use Monkey, and they are very likely to be exposed to sexual content.
Benjamin Levin is a digital marketing professional with 4+ years of experience with inbound and outbound marketing. He helps small businesses reach their content creation, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising goals. His hobbies include reading and traveling.