Each year brings a whole host of new apps that teens start using, but that adults are unaware of. Some of these apps can be quite beneficial, such as promoting the social and emotional well-being of teens. Others, such as Holla, which allows random video chat with others near your location, can be potentially dangerous. Either way, we’ve got your parental needs covered. Make time to discuss with your teen the benefits and potential negative consequences of using certain apps. Here are the latest trending apps and how they work, including the upside and downside.
Live Random Video Chat: Once someone signs up using a phone number or a Facebook account, he or she can get matched instantly with a stranger who is located nearby. Video-chatting with strangers can be risky for teens. When it's paired with location, it's absolutely a no-go. Also, while HOLLA supposedly bans iffy content -- like nudity and violence -- user reviews indicate that masturbation, fake identities, and negative comments are common.
In this simulation game, you're assigned an identity to play through the entire game, from infancy to death. As you play -- and your character gets older -- you can make choices about how to make money, spend time, and develop relationships with pretend profiles (which aren't connected to real people promoting the safety of your teen). Those choices determine your levels of happiness, health, smarts, and appearance. Families can talk about the way sex, and relationships are presented in BitLife - Life Simulator. Are there consequences to any of this behavior? Should there be? Why, or why not? Families can also talk about the impact of other life choices. If you choose to commit a crime, are dishonest, or are cruel to people, what might the consequences be?
SOCRATIC METHOD AND HOMEWORK HELP
This app lets you take a picture of a homework problem or question and get an answer and explanation in return, similar to Photomath. Because it's more focused and filtered than an open internet search, the results are more targeted and helpful (in other words, it gives you the answers). The biggest concern with this app is cheating: If your kid decides to use this app as an easy way out of homework, they'll lose a lot of learning. Secondly, since the answers come from the internet, they aren't always right. Used with good judgment (and monitoring by a parent), a teen could legitimately use Socratic Math to dig into tough concepts, but it's pretty easy to use for cheating.
This is a selfie-video creator where teens can create their own sound bites from songs or shows -- edit them by simply dragging the sound bar into place to start and end -- and save them to their personal library or share them with everyone. They then can use those clips or any of the hundreds of other available in the library to record themselves or their friends lip-synching. The pre-recorded sound bites available for dubbing do include topics and language not suitable for kids: "pick-up” lines, “hangover” themed quotes, and pretty much any bad word you can imagine from "hell" to "f--k" and everything in between. Parents need to know that much of the content is pretty raunchy -- with bad language and sexual innuendo -- so this is designed for older teens, as per the registration process.
With this app, teens can broadcast themselves live. They can see and respond to live chat or view other broadcasters and chat with them. The number of viewers is shown, and broadcasters can start trending if they have lots of viewers. YouNow generates quite a bit of traffic -- teens showcase their musical talent, goof off, or just talk and respond to comments, which roll in continuously. Users do a pretty good job of keeping the rules in mind, though requests for phone numbers (which aren't allowed, per the user agreement) and profanity abound. Instead of observed iffy behavior, it's the potential for problematic content that might concern some parents. Kids might make poor decisions to gain popularity. Because it's live video, kids can do or say anything and can respond to requests from viewers -- in real time. Though there seems to be moderation around iffy content (kids complain about having accounts suspended "for nothing"), there's plenty of swearing and occasional sharing of personal information with anonymous viewers.