This word usually elicits fearful images of attacking bulldogs, electrical hazards, or falling rocks onto the highway. We shout out this expression to warn a friend from impeding doom or from interfacing with hazardous environments. And when we imagine it spoken, we can hear James Earl Jones’ loud, deep voice resonating, “BEWAARRRRREE!!!”
But in reality, the origin of this word is simply the combination of two words: Be aware. So much less catastrophic, huh? Be aware. When I think of those two words, I imagine a Mary Poppins voice reminding me to look both ways when I cross the street, or to check to see if all my zippers are up before speaking publicly.
Throughout this Fearless 365 year, I’d like to take a few blogs to point out some important issues I believe we need to be aware of. While a few of these topics are serious, and maybe even alarming in nature, my intent is not for us to freak out and hear an echoing James Earl Jones “BEWARE!” Instead, my goal is for us to be aware so that like a Mary Poppins, we can move forward in a wise, prudent, and compassionate way.
Today I’d like to address cell phone apps that EVERY parent needs to know about. Seriously…you will not believe some of the stuff that’s out there. BUT…before we get into the information, promise me you are not going to go all ninja and start lurking about the young people in your life, attempting to spy on their cell phone habits and catch them in the midst of something you don’t approve of.
Trust me, for the last 5 years, I have been working with teens daily and this kind of behavior from parents, mentors, or elders simply does not build anything but resentment and distrust. You don’t want that. And honestly, no matter how aloof and omniscient they act, neither do they. The information below is for you to: 1) be aware of what is popular these days, 2) to offer you insight into the culture of those young teens and adults around you, and most importantly, 3) to help you start conversations with them about their cell phone lives. Because let’s face it, these kids LIVE on their cell phones.
Hopefully, you will read all the way to the bottom for some conversation starters to help you bridge the gap with the young people in your life.
Are you ready? Here we go:
PARENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THESE POPULAR APPS THAT TEENS ARE USING:
Calculator% This is a nifty one because it looks and works just like a calculator. The problems start when the user inputs a secret code and this now opens up an entirely hidden portal where he can store pictures, videos, as well as surf (and watch) anything he wants on the internet. As soon as he is done, *poof* all searching history is erased, and no one is the wiser. The only reason to download this app, especially since all phones already come with a calculator, is tuck away images you don’t want anyone else to see.
Audio Manager, Vaulty & HideApp: These apps are for hiding other apps, messages, etc. Like Calculator%, it is very popular for hiding nude pictures they don’t want to get caught with, plus sexting messages, and other apps and videos. Vaulty will even take a clandestine picture of a person who attempts to figure out the secret passcode so the owner will know just who is on to his or her secret files!
YikYak: This one is creeeepy. The user opens this GPS-driven app, and she immediately connects with the 500 closest Yaks that are also online. Now, the users can chat with each other freely, knowing their Yak “friends” are nearby. Can you see how dangerous this can be in the hands of a child predator?…which most assuredly, it is.
Blendr: Another dangerous GPS-driven app, which has 180-million users, is used to find other singles close by. Billed as a “fun app to flirt and find dates,” you can chat, exchange pictures and videos, and rate the hotness of others, all with the intention of hooking up. While it is rated for audiences 17+, there are no verifications needed to download this app.
KiK Messenger: Hugely popular, this is a text messaging app that works over wi-fi and can also send videos and sketches. No need for a cell-phone connection, KiK works on any device like an iPad, iPod, Kindle, whatever, and none of these messages can be tracked on a parental phone bill. It’s very trendy to use this to send nude pics and videos. In addition, I have personally seen this app used on Instagram as what looks like a trafficker soliciting a relationship with girls.
Ask.fm: One of the most popular apps out there that is used almost exclusively by young teens, this one seems harmless at first. It’s a platform where users can anonymously ask questions of each other, back and forth. It’s seems harmless and fun; that is until it gets ugly when several users gang up on another user and cyber bully him. There have actually been 9 suicides in the U.S. and the U.K. that are linked directly to the usage of this app.
Tinder: This is where the en vogue phrase “swipe right” comes from. It’s another GPS-driven app that is geared toward rating the sexual appeal of users with the intent of flirting with them, meeting up for a date, and having casual sex. This app makes it super easy for adults to connect with minors.
THESE ARE JUST A FEW of the many apps kids and teens are using, mostly unmonitored by any kind of an adult….but I don’t want to make this blog ridiculously long. Next week is Part 2, so make sure to SIGN UP for this weekly blog HERE!
I will be writing about several more of apps you need to know about, AS WELL AS some super great apps for us to use that not only help promote healthy cell phone habits and can shield our teens from incoming porn and sexting, but also can build relationship between parents/mentors/teachers and kids/teens. I will also tell you about a powerful app that can help rescue a person if they ever find themselves in danger!
The Fearless 365 Week Eight Challenge: Be Aware…without allowing yourself to become fearful. While the usage of these apps can lead to very scary scenarios in our imaginations (and sometimes, in reality), we do not operate from a posture of fear. Remember our F365 Week One Challenge: To Believe in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”
Instead, use this information as a tool to build relationship and conversation with the young people and young adults in your life. Ask questions like: Hey, have you heard of the ____ app? What does it do? What do you think about the ______ app? Help me to understand; do you think there are any dangers that can happen with the _____ app? Have you ever felt the need to hide apps? Why or why not?
Remember, relationship is KEY. We don’t want the young people around us to feel like we are looming over them or ready to pounce on them with a speech on morality. Rather, we want them to feel respected, trusted, and safe to share their real feelings.
Praying for you and calling you FEARLESS!