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Awareness, Education & Training
on CyberBullying Prevention

Talking Angela App and the disappearing 7 year old!

 

 

First of all forgive the sensationalist post title. There was some speculation that a 7 year old called Eli Moreno went missing after interacting with the Talking Angela app on his mums iPhone. This is 100% NOT TRUE. The story stemmed from a satirical website, that uses a mix of real stories and satire to bring it’s content to the world.

 

Aside from the alleged disappearing 7 year old, there was also some content circulating the interweb, alleging that this app was being run by a pedophile ring and the app was somehow taking photos of children using it, and asking them inappropriate questions. Again, this is unsubstantiated and it would appear that the Talking Angela app is receiving a lot of media attention due to an elaborate Facebook based hoax.

 

But what is Talking Angela and what is all the hype?

 

Well Talking Angela is part of the Talking Tom family of apps that was very popular last year and was created by app developers Outfit7, who have gone on the record and called the allegations ‘ridiculous’. The app has been downloaded over 65 million times and it’s an app whereby users can talk and interact with a cat sat outside a parisian cafe. It mimics gestures if the users camera is on and you take photos of yourself, for example, shaking your head, or sticking your tongue out. But the App itself is not taking pictures of children on it’s own accord and we were not able to get it to ask any provocative questions like those reported in the numerous Facebook posts, once we had toggled child safety mode off.

 

What many seem to have an issue with is the fact that whilst the App does have a Child Safety mode built in, it is far too easy to toggle it off.  When child safety mode is on, all content is family friendly and the app merely repeats what is said by the user and mimics actions. When toggled off,  the user has access to the chat function whereby questions can be asked and they also have the ability to then be connected directly to sites like YouTube, where age inappropriate material can be easily viewed, even if by accident.

 

The developers clearly state that children are not supposed to be using the app’s chat function, as that is targeted at older users, but the issue is that it’s far too easy for a child to turn off child safety mode and gain access to the chat function and other areas of the app that might not be age appropriate. It is something that Outfit7 have said will be remedied in the not too distant future (Easter 2014) Why it wasn’t done pre release is any one’s guess. Although it has been mooted that they built the app to target children and adults in order to stay at the top of the charts and as such, the safety issue, didn’t figure highly. But again this could well be pure speculation.

 

We will revisit this around Easter time and see if Outfit7 have implemented something like the commonly seen parental gates – swipe down with two fingers or write this sequence of numbers as figures.

 

But for the time being  parents; keep an eye on your children’s mobile devices, if you see the Talking Angela app icon, just be aware that they could have access to age inappropriate material or those innocuous in app purchases – and keep an eye on their conversations.