Wednesday, January 29, 2014

10 Apps You Should Be Aware Of

I was just getting used to Facebook too… Last week I read an article by ‘Time Magazine’ that said “over 11 million young people have fled facebook since 2011” (Read article here).

Though I had noticed this taking place with the students I have regular contact with I hadn’t read anything definitive on it nationally.  So why is this happening?  As the article hints, “It’s lost its cool cachet” but when I talk with teens I sometimes hear a different tune.  Some say: “I don’t want to read all the ‘reposts’ of articles”, others: “I just like seeing pictures” or my personal favorite:  “my parents are on it!!”  So where does that leave us?  What are they doing and how can I help equip others.  Let me give a quick disclaimer that if our goal is spying (“creeping” if you want the technical teen term) than we are simply going to see the ‘herd’ move to another place before we ever got used to this one.  It’s almost like we have the opportunity to be a “national geographic photographer” in the wild.  If we make too much noise or interfere with the “animals” they are simply going to run away.  But if we sit tight and watch from a distance we can observe the “wild” in its natural environment and really see what they do and who they hang out with… In essence, who they are at their core (or at least who they are experimenting with being)!!  I’m not saying don’t be involved, but consider listening, learning, ‘liking’ a few pics, etc. before firing the critical comment that’s going to get us ‘blocked’ or just hesitation from them being them.  What the school was to the 60-70s kid, the mall was to the 80-90s kid, the Internet is to the millennial (kids today).

All that being said… Here’s a list of top ‘apps’ (since most teens engage the internet via their phones far more that their computer) our students at NBHighSchool (yeah I linked our facebook, I'm assuming you're a parent reading this and thus still using Facebook :)) are using and a list of apps you should be aware of as a parent.

Top apps used by NBHighSchool students:
#1 Instagram (Hands down #1 with our students and nationally among teens)
#4 iFunny

Jeff’s top 10 social networks to be aware of’Disclaimer: I am NOT saying these are all bad!  I am providing information and my opinion that parents should be engaged and some what “in the know” of what is possibly on your son or daughters iPhone, iPod, etc.  I also think you are one of the best identifiers to whether it’s an addiction or not (Having heard a lot of adults say they are addicted ‘CandyCrush’ you may know what I mean!).

I hesitate putting either of these two apps on the list but I have a lot of questions regularly about music (“Have you heard of this group”, “Is this song popular now”, “I had no clue that’s what that said”, etc.).  As I write this I’m using my Spotify app and listening to ‘Billboard Hot 100’ playlist trying to get caught up on what’s popular right now (most of the time not what I enjoy listening too anymore J).  That all being said, just be aware that both these apps provide the opportunity to listen to any and all music without restriction or censorship.  This means they may not have the songs or band you’ve said ‘no’ to on their phone but they may have a playlist with them on their app.

#9 iFunny
This app is essentially just giving you access to an online world of pictures “of fun made to your taste.”  You can figure out by their own description that they are all over the map: “simulated gambling”, “mild alcohol, tobacco or drug use”, “frequent/intense prolonged graphic or sadistic realistic violence”, “crude humor”, “Mature/suggestive themes”, etc.  Are some of the pics funny and clean, sure… You may have to wade through the ‘muck’ to get there though.  *Also “you must be at least 17 years old to download this app” (or at list click a button that you promise you are)!

#8 Vine
“Tween and teen Vine users are most likely to create silly six-second videos (like their parents do), but there’s also a ton of really inappropriate content, both violent and sexual, on Vine. While Vine Labs has taken steps to restrict access to explicit videos, they’re still out there in spades. Vine has recently been used to document animal cruelty by teens, and it’s also been linked to bullying, including video of kids who weren’t aware they were being recorded.”

The app (and accompanying website) is intended to be a friendly Q+A forum to get to know people better. In reality, it’s rife with bullying and sexually charged discussion. To say the least. Questions can be answered anonymously, which adds to the potential for kids to make comments that they wouldn’t if they could be identified. If you happen to notice this on your kid’s phone, be aware that concerns about are incredibly serious: It’s been implicated as a factor in five teen suicides.”

#6 Tinder
“We really wish we didn’t have to include the online dating app Tinder in this list, but we do–because kids are using it. (We know. We’re feeling pretty gross about that too.) Teens like Tinder because it only matches you with people who like you back, and that provides some major positive reinforcement, which makes them want to keep using it. Yeah, we’ve come a long way from simply mustering up the courage to talk to the cute guy in Bio class… Tinder especially concerns us because matches are limited to a geographic area, which means kids are connecting with people in the local area who uh, may not actually be other kids.”

#5 Kik
“Messenger This app is known for its quick instant messaging and allows users to exchange videos, pictures, and sketches made through the app. Sounds fun, right? Well yes, it can be. But many teens use the app for sexting and dating purposes as well. The term “sex buddy” is being replaced with “Kik buddy.” Did that get your attention? By use of social media websites, teens have reportedly placed classified ads for sex by providing users with their Kick username. Additionally, Kik does not have any parental controls and there is no way of authenticating users, which makes it easy for underage users as well as pedophiles to use the messenger app.”

“This groundbreaking site lets anyone engage in video chat via webcam with random strangers. Users under 18 are prohibited, as is nudity, but nobody's checking IDs at the door or making sure everyone is wearing pants (trust me, they aren't). And if you do get booted for violating those terms, there are lookalike services (like Omegle, ChatRandom, or DirtyRoulette) with even fewer restrictions.”
*Though this is not an app (because it requires ‘flash’ which is Apple has not made available on the iPhone, unless ‘Jailbroken’) it can be accessed on any phone with Adobe Flash.

#3 Whisper
“Whisper is a confession app for teenagers that allows users to superimpose self-written text over a picture of their choice. What makes the app interesting is that the users are anonymous and thus, so are the secrets they post. Whisper provides a sense of freedom for young users to share their feelings, emotions, and confessions to others without their identity being revealed. However, this app has commonly used for bullying… Because users are anonymous, teens have posted photographs of other teens with inappropriate text superimposed over the image. Additionally, the anonymous aspect means that users do not have to register and that there is no user profile.” *See also PostSecret.

Yes, SnapChat is one of the most used apps at NBHighSchool and the country AND is also my number two of most concerning (it’s probably a toss up with Omegle).  So what is it?  In short it’s an app that gives you the ability to send picture texts that disappear.  Pretty obvious what can happen in a conversation between teens who think whatever they say cannot be traced!  Couple quick thoughts: it was created to sext, you can take screen shots and save them to your phone’s photo library, SnapChat does have the ability to retrieve ‘snaps’ from any user after they “disappear”.  I personally have been wrestling hard with my stance on SnapChat for months knowing it’s such a quick and easy way to communicate (and fun) but recently decided to go ahead and delete it and would encourage you to do the same (Click here to read a post with some great points you might not have thought about).

#1 Omegle: Talk to Strangers! (Yes, this is their real tagline)
“Omegle has been around since 2008, with video chat added in 2009.  When you use Omegle you do not identify yourself through the service – chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger”.  From there however, anything goes – certainly a chat participant may decide to give their name, location, age and other personal information…The Omegle homepage clearly states that the service is not for those under 13: “Do not use Omegle if you are under 13. If you are under 18, use it only with a parent/guardian’s permission.”  I’m guessing that not too many 16 year olds are asking mom or dad for the okay… Note: Using video chat requires that your computer’s IP address is made available to the stranger’s computer:  “Omegle video chat requires a direct connection to be made between your computer and the other user’s computer…”  At the end of an Omegle chat, users have the option to save the chat’s log and share the link.”
*Personal note: I know of more than one student in counseling and with law enforcement involved for some of the things that went on during their time on Omegle.


May You protect our kids from the evil one.  May You bless our time with our kids each day.  May You give us guidance with our words and actions to move them closer to You.  May we have the trust that You love our kids more than us, the courage to let them fall and the wisdom to know when to step in!! 

The Bergs
**Follow Jeff (Family Pastor of High School), also known as "surgeberg" on: FacebookTwitter & Instagram

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