MICROBLOGGING APPS AND SITES
Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or video and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or “tumblogs,” that can be seen by anyone online (if they’re made public). Many teens have tumblogs for personal use: sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends.
Porn is easy to find. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos and depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.
Privacy can be guarded but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a second profile, which they’re able to password-protect.
Posts are often copied and shared. Reblogging on Tumblr is similar to re-tweeting: A post is reblogged from one tumblog to another. Many teens like — and, in fact, want — their posts to be reblogged.
Twitter is a microblogging tool that allows users to post brief, 140-character messages — called “tweets” — and follow other users’ activities. It’s not only for adults; teens like using it to share tidbits and keep up with news and celebrities.
Public tweets are the norm for teens. Though you can choose to keep your tweets private, most teens report having public accounts. Talk to your kids about what they post and how a post can spread far and fast.
Updates appear immediately. Even though you can remove tweets, your followers can still read what you wrote until it’s gone. This can get kids in trouble if they say something in the heat of the moment.
LIVE-STREAMING VIDEO APPS
Houseparty – Group Video Chat is a way for groups of teens to connect via live video. Two to eight people can be in a chat together at the same time. If someone who’s not a direct friend joins a chat, teens get an alert in case they want to leave the chat. You can also “lock” a chat so no one else can join.
Users can take screenshots during a chat. Teens like to think that what happens in a chat stays in a chat, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s easy for someone to take a screenshot while in a chat and share it with whomever they want.
There’s no moderator. Part of the fun of live video is that anything can happen, but that can also be a problem. Unlike static posts that developers may review, live video chats are spontaneous, so it’s impossible to predict what kids will see, especially if they’re in chats with people they don’t know well.
Live.ly – Live Video Streaming poses all the same risks that all live-streaming services do, so poor choices, oversharing, and chatting with strangers can be part of the package.
It’s associated with Musical.ly. Because of the parent app’s popularity, this streamer is all the rage, and “musers” (devoted Musical.ly listeners) have built-in accounts.
Privacy, safety, and creepiness are concerns. Because teens are often broadcasting from their bedrooms to people they don’t know, sometimes sharing phone numbers, and often performing for approval, there’s the potential for trouble.
Live.me – Live Video Streaming allows kids to watch others and broadcast themselves live, earn currency from fans, and interact live with users without any control over who views their streams.
Kids can easily see inappropriate content. During our review, we saw broadcasters cursing and using racial slurs, scantily clad broadcasters, young teens answering sexually charged questions, and more.
Predatory comments are a concern. Because anyone can communicate with broadcasters, there is the potential for viewers to request sexual pictures or performances or to contact them through other social means and send private images or messages.
YouNow: Broadcast, Chat, and Watch Live Video is an app that lets kids stream and watch live broadcasts. As they watch, they can comment or buy gold bars to give to other users. Ultimately, the goal is to get lots of viewers, start trending, and grow your fan base.
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.
Teens can share personal information, sometimes by accident. Teens often broadcast from their bedrooms, which often have personal information visible, and they sometimes will share a phone number or an email address with viewers, not knowing who’s really watching.
It’s creepy. Teens even broadcast themselves sleeping, which illustrates the urge to share all aspects of life, even intimate moments, publicly — and potentially with strangers.