Parents Beware of Vine

Have you searched for an article based on the question, “Should I let my child use Vine?” Maybe you looked for, “Is Vine safe for kids?” If so, this article is for you.

Vine is a social media service owned by Twitter. It allows people to upload or create six second video clips that loop when viewed. It has a potential for good use. According to the Wikipedia page describing the service, it was used to “document the aftermath of a suicide bombing outside the United States embassy in Turkey.”

The problem is that even though Vine’s policies expressly forbid pornographic content, that does not mean it will not be seen. Users can actually post anything they want. The algorithms that control uploading of videos do not stop a pornographic loop from being posted to the service. It is up to self-policing in the Vine community of users to report video loops that violate policies.

I see a value in social media to share the Gospel and build positive relationships with people. I see a value in offering an alternative to the masses who are inundated with the “anything goes” sort of mentality when it comes to reading, viewing or posting on social media platforms that include Vine, Twitter and Facebook. It is easiest to avoid exposure to undesirable content on Facebook. It is more risky when trying to avoid exposure to it on Twitter. And, as I have discovered, it is practically unavoidable on Vine.

The first few video loops I watched after signing up for the service were benign. Then some with graphic language began to show up. As I scrolled through the app on my smart phone, one came up on the screen that was outright unequivocally pornographic. I would imagine that even parents who are very permissive would have been appalled. Though the Vine policy indicates that “posts that focus on exposed genitalia” are not allowed, it was right there on my phone.

The app works by scrolling up from the bottom to see an endless variety of video loops based on the categories chosen when setting up the app. The video loops automatically begin to play as the user scrolls. Users can also search for video loops using hashtags.  The app interface also permits stop-motion video recording to permit creation of interesting and highly artistic loops.

Categories include art and experimental, food, cats and dogs. All of the categories listed seem perfectly fine for anyone to choose. None of them had titles even remotely suggesting there would be pornographic content. The only one that might give one a sense it could contain undesirable content was the humor category.

Those who like pet videos could scroll through cute cat and dog loops for hours. Humor is subjective and seems to include liberal use of profanity. I was not expecting the pornographic video to pop up on the screen even though I was getting more hesitant to scroll as the content began to degrade into more profanity. I closed the app when the pornographic video loop popped up on the screen. I had enough of Vine. I deleted my account and uninstalled the app.

There are complex algorithms that can do a decent job of detecting the content of videos. YouTube uses this technology. Maybe Vine does not have access to it. I do not know. For example, a video that the algorithm detects as depicting nudity could pop up a warning before posting that pornographic content is forbidden. Vine policy, however, does not forbid nudity, just pornographic and sexually explicit video loops. You can read Vine’s policy on such content by clicking HERE.

The iTunes store rates the Vine app as 17+. Users are supposed to be 17 or older to download and use it. Since the iTunes rating includes a declaration of “Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity,” this is not an app Christian parents would desire their children to have access to. I would also go as far to say that adult Christians would also do well to not use the Vine app. At least not until more safeguards against seeing or hearing explicit content are offered.

If Vine does not add safeguards to protect against viewing offensive material, it will degrade into a cesspool of questionable material until only those who delight in such content are its users. The only good takeaway of that is it will provide an excellent hunting ground for law enforcement agencies looking to discover, apprehend and prosecute sexual offenders.

The bottom line is since users cannot effectively eliminate the possibility of even inadvertently seeing pornographic content or seeing or hearing other explicit content, parents should not permit children to use the service.