DWH Tech Talk: Apps Your Kids Use

We’re parents now. It’s no secret that our kids laugh at the fashions we used to wear and the music we listened to, just like we did to our parents. And in today’s terms it also means that they don’t use the same apps we do. Here’s a rundown on some of the ones that you may not have tried yet.

Magic Jack
Annoyance rating:HIGH
Threat level: LOW
Cost: FREE

Remember prank-calling strangers? When caller ID came out we all thought it spelled the end of prank-calling, but Magic Jack has brought it back to life. You can use this app to make free phone calls. Yes, even from an iPod. Trust me, it works. And when your kids use this app to phone people and ask if their refrigerator is running, they are calling from some unknown caller ID that can’t be traced back to them, and certainly can’t be used for incoming calls. So they’re pretty safe in using it, just be aware that they’re pulling the same hijinks we did and try to impress on them “too much of a funny thing isn’t funny any more”.

Yik Yak
Annoyance rating:HIGH
Threat level: VERY HIGH
Cost: FREE

Don’t be disarmed by the Yak, this app is poisonous and should not be allowed in. It’s a place where jerks and bullies go to post messages anonymously. It is a failed social experiment and already the cause of one school bomb scare. Although it says you need to be 17 or older to download, and although it comes with a ton of content warnings, none of that really stops younger people from downloading apps. Delete on sight.

Minecraft – Pocket Edition
Annoyance rating:LOW
Threat level: LOW
Cost: $6.99

Although Minecraft is marketed as a game, there really isn’t a set goal. Think of it as “electronic lego”. Children are spending countless hours building some truly interesting things. Ask to see what they’ve built and you’re likely going to be impressed with the complexity and ingenuity of their creations. And although it’s possible to play on the same server as other people and create things in the same virtual world, it isn’t a haven for creeps. Just be mindful that when they are on YouTube watching Minecraft videos, some of the language may not be appropriate for their age.

Instagram
Annoyance rating: MEDIUM
Threat level: HIGH
Cost: FREE

If your child is 13 or over and has a Facebook account, don’t be fooled into thinking that you are aware of their online social activity. They may friend you on Facebook, but that isn’t where they are posting with their friends. Instagram is one of many such “adult free” zones for many teens, simply because their parents don’t see the value in posting a picture of literally everything in life. I’ve marked this app’s annoyance rating at “medium” because if you are going to check up on their Instagram feed, you are going to be annoyed at the volume and at the stupidity. The threat for this app comes from the ability to comment on photos, which is where some teens get downright nasty with each other. Be aware of the chat, and make sure your child isn’t in the middle of something harmful.

Flappy Bird
Annoyance rating: HIGH
Threat level: LOW
Cost: FREE

There is no game more annoying. Or, at least there wasn’t until the millions of Flappy Clones showed up. If your kids managed to download a copy of this app before it was pulled from the app store, you have my sympathy. Do not play this game – you will crack your kid’s iPod screen when you punch it.

Snapchat
Annoyance rating:MEDIUM
Threat level: HIGH
Cost: FREE

Snapchat lures teens into thinking that they can send pictures to their friends that will disappear shortly after opening. This leads them to sending pictures of things they shouldn’t, such as naked body parts. As with everything that is posted electronically, a copy exists somewhere, and “what’s posted online stays online”. As long as your child uses Snapchat to only post pictures that they’re Ok with the whole school seeing, they will be fine.

Candy Crush Saga
Annoyance rating:MEDIUM
Threat level: LOW
Cost: FREE* with a catch

This isn’t some obscure app, you’ve probably seen this game or are playing it yourself. Just watch out, the psychology behind this game is insidious, and it does a very good job of acting like a drug: the first taste is free, but after that you pay. And pay. Some parents are finding out the hard way that the $200 worth of iTunes gift cards their children just received are all going to the makers of Candy Crush Saga in no time flat. This game pulls in millions of dollars per day, and those who think they will continue to play it “for free” eventually hit the wall. There are many other similar games that aren’t so hard on the wallet.

About the author:

Todd Trann has been programming computers since 1983, and is a self-proclaimed geek and Dumb White Husband. He has two daughters who are not at all impressed that he also makes mobile apps. You can find him on Twitter at @toddtrann.

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