What is the Flinch app?
Flinch is an app by the makers of OoVoo. The premise of this app sounds fun – it’s basically the digital version of a staring contest. The first person who smiles, loses the game. While the technology behind the app is impressive, parents should know that kids using Flinch can stare down with complete strangers.
Flinch app age restrictions
The Flinch app is available in iTunes and it is also available for Android devices from the Google Play store. The rating in iTunes is 17+ for “unrestricted web access”.
When you install and sign up for Flinch you must enter your birthday to proceed. If you’re younger than 13, it won’t let you select your real birth date; it will auto scroll to a date that gives you a 13+ birthday. It’s way too easy for a younger-than-13 person to get on the app. The app basically encourages you to lie about your age.
(Remember you can restrict the download of apps by rating – find out how).
Flinch is also available on the Google Play store for Android devices, where oddly enough, the app has an “Everyone” rating.
The Flinch terms and conditions clearly state that “The Licensed Applications are not intended for use by children under 13”. And while the terms also mention prohibited behavior, they also say “You may be exposed to content that is offensive, inappropriate for minors, indecent or otherwise objectionable”.
Concerns about Flinch App
The main concern here is that when using Flinch you are inviting a stranger into your home through a live video session, similar to Facetime or Omegle. While the interaction time may be short, you are face to face with a complete stranger and anything goes. The app doesn’t provide any recording/saving options but that doesn’t mean the game can’t be recorded or saved by taking a screenshot or using another camera to record the screen. Evidence of this is easily found on YouTube.
While you do have a “Friends” option to play with a Facebook friend or someone from your Contacts, that feature is useless unless your friends also use the app. So most will end up connecting with strangers.
You can’t restrict the app to only allow playing with “friends”. Remember this is a game designed for 17+ according to the app developer, so there are no parental controls here. If you allow this app you are allowing your child to come face to face with strangers of any age from anywhere in the world.
Once you have been matched with an opponent, that opponent can challenge you to another game or can follow you. (The app does provide the ability to block a user if you experience someone who is inappropriate in any way.)
Speaking of inappropriate, not everyone is there for a staring match. In one game I was matched with a shirtless guy who immediately moved the camera down to his privates. Since the app is based on facial recognition, once the face is out of camera the image is blurred out; therefore I did not see this man’s privates (thank goodness).
In looking at the app reviews, seems others are using the app for other purposes as well. The 2nd review here is also telling – imagine a teen using this app and getting negative feedback about his or her appearance?
Location settings give you the option of Global, Regional or Local. I didn’t find any explanation for these (like, how local is local? Down the street? Same town? Same state?) When I chose Local I was matched with someone from Louisiana who, by the way, looked to be about 11 years old. I did notice that when using the Global setting, I encountered more potential nudity and drug references than when in the Regional or Local setting. Yes I did some thorough testing here for you all!
Parents may also want to know that there are ads that pop up quite often while using the app, and there are also in-app purchases.
In summary, I don’t recommend this app for minors. While the game would be fun to play with friends, there is no way to enforce that option. Teenagers are wired for risk-taking so the randomness of who they might encounter may be what is appealing. If you do have kids or teens using the app, you may want to ask them what they like about it; have they encountered any inappropriate behavior?