Need to Know.
We live in a culture where we are obsessed with knowing: what’s the breaking news or latest controversy, what star wore what when, and what happened on last night’s hit TV show. There’s so much information bombarding us and available at our fingertips. After all, pretty much any info can be found by a Google search taking just .023 seconds.
Instant info is the new norm. It’s the world our kids are growing up in, and many times, it’s what drives the most popular apps.
Last week, I gave you Part One of a blog series that exposed several of the most popular apps used by children, many of them potentially very dangerous. If you didn’t get a chance to read that blog, I highly recommend doing so HERE before going on to this week’s blog.
And talking about “need to know,” here are more apps that every parent, teacher, or mentor should be aware of…both bad AND good. I’ll start out with several apps that we all have to make sure we are talking about to the young people in our lives…but then I want to offer you some super great apps that can help breed conversation, trust, and responsible internet habits.
Let’s dive in!
PART TWO of POPULAR APPS TEENS ARE USING THAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT (this list is not comprehensive and in no particular order)
Snapchat This is a HUGELY popular app, and ridiculously FUN. Who doesn’t love to play with the Snapchat filters and post silly videos? Over the last few years, Snapchat is to teens and young adults what Facebook is to, well, the older people. This app allows you to post pictures and short videos which disappear from a follower’s feed once he or she has viewed it. After 24 hours, the post vanishes forever…or does it?
What you need to know: The vanishing aspect of this app has huge appeal for young people to send nude pics and videos, sexting with friends and strangers. The user can send direct messages and chat, and all evidence of any type of activity disappears. BUT, the truth is, not only can fellow snappers take screenshots of the nudes and forward those to their friends, it is also popular to post them to revenge porn sites called “snap porn.” In addition, the videos and pictures DON’T actually completely disappear from the internet and can be recovered if need be, even months later.
With 2.5 BILLION Snaps posted daily, I think it’s safe to say Snapchat isn’t going away any time soon. As parents or mentors, it’s important to have frank conversations with the young people in our lives about the potential hazards of this app.
Musical.ly Another really fun app to play with, where the user can pick 15 second clips of virtually any song and record themselves singing along, lip syncing, or dancing. It’s hilarious and can be wet-yourself funny. But there are some very serious drawbacks every parent must be aware of.
What you need to know: All accounts automatically are public for any of the other 130 million viewers to see. In addition, there are direct messaging options where anyone can contact anyone else, and there have been many, many reports of predators requesting nude pictures and videos through this app. It is very important that you on purpose go into the settings and switch your account to private. Even with that, I’d have very direct conversations with the young people in your life about the types of videos they should record, as well as the dangers of meeting other people through this app.
Omegle With a tagline of “Talk to Strangers!” we can all agree this app has issues. But it’s so much worse than even that. Here’s how it works: You sign up anonymously and are set randomly into a room with a stranger so the chatting (text and video) can begin. Very commonly, one of the first questions asked by the stranger is “ASL,” meaning, “Age, Sex, and Location.” Many users, especially young ones, don’t realize they are not required to answer that question to continue chatting.
What you need to know: It is not anonymous, as any user can save both the texts and videos, and then post a link for others to view that chat history. There is monitored and unmonitored video chatting, and I don’t think I need to explain what happens on the unmonitored platform. In addition, you can link your Omegle account with your Facebook account, furthering a predator’s access to personal information. It’s extremely risky for any person to be using this app, let alone a young person. Unlike Snapchat and Musicly.ly, I see no positive sides to this app, and believe it should be deleted from any young person’s phone.
Whisper What good can come out of an app whose sole purpose is for users to log on and share their deepest, darkest secrets anonymously with random strangers? Young people will say it’s fun, sometimes hilarious, and a vehicle with which they can vent their true feelings…until it gets ugly.
What you need to know: This app displays the area you are posting from, AND users can search to find others who are posting within one mile from them! Just from the sheer nature of posting a secret, it’s easy to bond with another person who sympathizes and seeks further direct messaging. This app was where a Washington man met a 12-year old, forged a relationship with her, convinced her to meet up with him, and then raped her. Again…DELETE.
After School This is an interesting one. A student connects by scanning their school code or their Facebook profile, then this unlocks a message board that is specific to his or her school. While it is anonymous, the posts can be very direct as they talk about teachers, incidences, and other students. It’s gossip on steroids!
What you need to know: This is a breeding ground for cyber-bullying and sexting. Teens post anonymously about other kids, and others can target, make fun, and ridicule that kid! Students can get revenge by posting nudes of others they’ve taken screenshots of, as well as rate the hotness of fellow girls and boys at their school. There is also an option where users can scan their driver’s license so they can enter a 17+ aged platform, where explicit content abounds. DELETE!
BUT NOT ALL APPS ARE NEGATIVE! There are many apps that actually breed trust, foster relationship-building conversation, and positive internet habits. Here are just a few of those I’d like to highlight. There are so many great apps out there, but the reason I especially like the following ones is because they are not secretive, spy-on-my-teen apps; rather, they help link parents, teachers, and mentors together as they keep each other accountable while building trust and integrity.
Covenant Eyes This is a fantastic app that can filter inappropriate content from the internet and/or create accountability through monitoring, rating, and sending your internet activity to a partner you chose. I love that this app gives the opportunity for the users to build habits of integrity, not simply blocking out every adult-related or sexually explicit post.
What you need to know: Studies prove the average age of a child’s first exposure to porn is 11! Also, 70% of teens stumble upon porn while searching the internet. This conversation is a MUST HAVE in every household with young people, as well as between mentors and teens. This app is a fabulous tool to help shield the eyes of ALL internet users, establish accountability, and establish strong positive online habits.
Moment & Checky These two apps are excellent downloads for every family. Both of them track your internet usage, how many times you check your phone, and even how long you spend on each app, like Facebook, Instagram, and gaming (ouch!). Each app gives you many setting options where you can set limits to your daily social media usage, timers to automatically shut down the internet during important times like dinnertime and sleep time, and daily maximum goals for the amount of time you spend surfing on your phone. You can also have several family member profiles, allowing each to see the other’s reports, so you all can help keep each other accountable to your goals.
What you need to know: As painful as this knowledge is…do you really know how many minutes (or hours) you spend on your digital device each day? Across the board in research polls, people estimated their usage to be 50% less than what they actually spent, once they engaged in tracking apps like Moment and Checky. What you need to know is how much time you really spend…I was VERY surprised at my report! I know you will be, too!
Help Me! As I watch my three beautiful girls burgeoning into young ladies, I can sometimes feel my chest get tight when I think of them driving, going out alone, and (gulp!) going away to college. But we are the FEARLESS, right? We trust in God to order the steps of our children! Buuuuut, that doesn’t mean we don’t put in some safeguards along the way as well. This app is a must have for kids. Think of it as an online panic button that any person can click, if ever (God forbid) they find themselves in danger. Help Me is a location-based service that can help you in emergency situations such as: physical assault, injury, robbery, or in case you get lost. YES!
What you need to know: The makers of this app have thought of everything. By a simple click, it will send out your location to up to five people you have chosen, and turns on a video if you need to record the situation. It will also sound a siren, or can be used as a flashlight. Honestly, I cannot find any drawback to having this app downloaded on every phone, especially of a young person.
AGAIN....The Fearless 365 Week Nine 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!