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AppsParenting

5 Apps You Need to Know Your Teen/Tween Are Using

By Dec 18, 2013July 2nd, 201415 Comments

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When it comes to mobile apps, do you know what your teen or tween are using? Here is a list of top apps that you want to make sure you’re aware of.

Contrary to all the scary stories and salacious news reports most kids aren’t being inappropriate or jerks online. I have watched my kids social media accounts, apps, etc. for years and while I have asked them to take posts down on occasion (usually because of a curse word) for the most what they post is perfectly normal and ok. I may not like everything, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be posting it. They are teens and they need to be able to behave like teens.

top apps

Top Apps You Need To Know About

I asked my teens, friends of my teens, my friends and online community of parents of teens what their teens’ favorite apps were and I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t some sneaky app I had never heard of. Below are the most popular five apps your teens are using, aside from the obvious Facebook and Twitter, and what you should know about each one.

Ask.fm

http://ask.fm/

top apps

Of all the crowdsourcing I did, no one mentioned this app. That tells me either teens aren’t using it or we parents just aren’t aware of it because they don’t want us to be. One teen I asked about the app said, “Only the kids who are attention hungry,” use this app.

When I pressed by asking, “So does that mean quite a lot of teens use it but not you and your closest friends or you don’t know hardly any that do?”

The teen responded with, “I mean yeah there’s a decent amount that use it.”

This app has been linked to several suicides and has come under fire for rampant cyberbullying. The basic premise is that you user asks a question or answers one of the Ask.fm random questions of the day and then everyone responds. One of the things I found most interesting is this face via webwise, “…a user can never find out who is following them and can only know the overall number of followers he/she has.” Clearly that kind of anonymity makes this app dangerous. For more info on what exactly Ask.Fm is I highly recommned reading the entire webwise article, Ask.fm: A Guide for Parents and Teachers. Also worth reading is this Huffington Post article, 10 frightening facts about Ask.fm parents should know.

Instagram

I follow both of my kids on this photo app. They don’t mind that I do. While it used to be something they posted to daily (or hourly depending on the person), with the creation of Snapchat that has been greatly reduced. Like Facebook who owns Instagram, kids just aren’t using it as much. Partly because Snapchat is WAY more fun and also because parents can’t see your Snapchat photos & videos.

YouTube

TV Schmeevee. Who needs it when you can watch YouTube. Kids are constantly watching videos online. Sports clips, comedy, tutorials. You name it, they are watching it.

SnapChat

http://www.snapchat.com/

top apps

This one concerns me because there is no way to monitor it. If you aren’t familiar with it, here is a complete breakdown. The short story is you take a photo, click on the people you want to send the photo to, decide how long those people will have to view the photo and then send the photo or video. Once the person at the other end clicks on the photo or video, they have the designated amount of seconds to see the photo or video and then it disappears. You can see how this could be dangerous. As I stated on my Ooph Snapchat post, Snapchat gives teens a false sense of security about the privacy of what they are sending.

Vine

https://vine.co/

top apps

Just in case you haven’t heard of this app, Vine is owned by Twitter and the premise is to create six second videos that are shown in loop. My oldest loves this app. He posts the most inappropriately hilarious videos. He’s 18 and I am ok with that. If he was posting those at 16 I would have been horrified. I highly recommend you find your kids Vine account and follow it. Like everything else, from a distance, but always watching and making sure they are behaving appropriately.

The key here is not in forbidding the apps, it’s in watching them as a bystander. It’s like everything with parenting, you choose your battles. You may not like everything they post but you have to ask yourself:

  1. Is this post/video something that will cause them to lose something?
  2. Is this a teaching moment?
  3. Is this a TAKE THAT DOWN IMMEDIATELY moment?
  4. Is this just a teen being a teen and I am overreacting?

Your own family values will tell you which you can live with and which you can’t.The internet is here to stay, its your job to teach them how to use it in a respectful way.

Your Turn

Let’s hear from you!

What apps are your teens using?

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About the Author:
oophStefanie Mullen is the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend’s Soul and owner and founder of Ooph.com, a site devoted to the parenting of tweens and teens. She is the co-host of Your Family Matters on WSRadio.com. Stefanie has been featured in the New York Times and has appeared on NBC, Fox, KUSI and NPR. Connect with Stefanie on Twitter @Ooph.

15 Comments

  • Sammy says:

    With sites like snaphacks.com and a few other sites. Snapchat is the worst thing a kid could have just because the picture disappears from your phone dont mean its really gone. These websites hack snapchst servers and save the pics.

    Whisper is another horrible app kids are using to send pics and ask questions 100% Anonymous. They can post what they want picture wise. Its horrible.

  • a-pak says:

    Thanks for sharing this information I appreciate it. Good post and God bless!

  • fbnini says:

    Ya, it’s really very good article.

  • Alin says:

    In my country Vine is not a popular app. Facebook and Youtube are in the top!

  • Adrian says:

    I’m confused. My son did have Snapchat and he was puzzled when I asked him to remove it. Apparently some of his friends are using it in place of texts. Which to me would be a pain. To have to take a picture of something every time I want to say something? That seems like a lot of work. Same thing with Instagram. I like a good picture as much as anyone, but I’m all about the WORDS, baby! I do see the potential for sexting and that alarms me, but otherwise, I just don’t see why these apps are particularly popular.

  • Beth says:

    I know these apps and let my teen use all of them, with one string attached: I get to follow/friend/join or whatever they call being part of the group. It’s like having mom on his shoulder any time he goes to post (his words) so he thinks twice about what he puts out there. When it is misused, it’s uninstalled. Oh, one more string: He’s on my iTunes account and I hold the password so he can’t install anything without me putting in the password. It’s working for us so far! Thanks for posting 🙂

  • yes watch out for Vine just not what they are posting but who they are following! Have seen so very inappropriate videos on vine .

  • mike gregory says:

    that’s sounds great by the way thank you for sharing.
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  • Biswajit says:

    At first thank you very much for this article. Still now I never tried before snapchat and vine. Now I check this software.

  • Karen says:

    My kids (19 and 16) and their classmates all use ask.fm It is really popular here! I prefer that they use it on “non-anonymous” though because you can get some creepy questions otherwise. I do see a lot of bullying or rude comments when I read the feed so it is one I monitor pretty regularly. Snapchat is another that is a concern although I currently let my kids use it but only with 2 or 3 friends. I use it with them too and it is fun. They send me silly expressions or pictures of what is going on with them. The people they use it with are trustworthy but we have had problems with it in the past when I allowed it to be more open. I am hoping they add in a way for people to monitor it if they choose to archive the pics or something. By the way if someone does screen shot your picture, it tells you they have done that. On Instagram, one of the newest features is “Instagram Direct” in which you can send pictures only to certain people (or several at a time) and I am hoping that replaces the desire for Snapchat, as it is more monitor-able.

  • Hi Stefanie, solo dad here: I’ve let my kids install and use whatever they like on their i-stuff. My approach has been one of “you take the risks – you reap the consequences”. While that doesn’t mean I won’t be there to support them when / if anything bad happens, or inappropriate other stuff. I totally trust mine to behave the same way online or via apps as they do in real life. Have known others that demand that their kids hand over all passwords and access rights to parents that monitor with an iron fist under the cover of “concern”, but to me, that’s a breach of their personal space and privacy.

  • I’ve been interested in Instagram for a while, but have not tried it yet, though some of my Twitter followers are on there…maybe i should join today.

  • Jayme says:

    Mine use Tumblr as well

  • Ashlee says:

    Snapchat is a hard one because the pictures go away so quickly. I wouldn’t even allow my teenager to use it. People can easily take a picture of the picture they sent and it will be there forever. Any other social app, I can totally check up on them with no problem.