Facebook Messenger for kids

App Review – Facebook messenger for kids

Threat Level – Low

If you haven’t heard, Facebook has a version of Messenger targeted to kids. This is a stand alone app on IOS and Android. The app is appropriately called Messenger Kids, and is a newer messaging app designed specifically for children between the ages of six and 12. It does not require a Facebook account, which makes sense, considering law says children under the age of 13 can’t have a Facebook account.

At launch, it was just available for IOS but now is on Android as well. The app is geared with kids in mind and you can tell this by the look and feel of app. Facebook described the standalone app as an easier way for children to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together.

Kids can use it to video chat with a grandparent or message a cousin or send a decorated photo to a friend. The app is controlled through a parent’s Facebook account, and it does not require the child to have an actual Facebook account since it is a stand alone app they will download to their own device.

The app itself is fun with child appropriate filters and stickers for chat and video calls and they can start a one on one or group video chat with only parent approved contacts. They can also see when their contacts are online, and then they can send them photos, videos, or text messages. Kids can also access a library of child-appropriate GIFS, stickers and masks. Adult friends will receive their messages via the regular Facebook Messenger app so there is not a need to download multiple messengers for parents.

I think this was a great move by Facebook to at least show they are trying to help with safety and children messaging apps on mobile devices. Obviously there are risks to any online messaging but at least they are trying to lock it down as much as they can. Kudos Facebook.

Tags – Facebook, messenger, FB, FB for kids, messenger for kids

Houseparty

App Review – House Party

Threat Level – Medium

House party is an app developed by Life on air incorporated. It appears they have put all their focus into this one app and it is still slowly climbing up the charts. I got an email from a parent about this app this morning and with the beginning of summer amongst us, kids are looking at different ways to communicate with their friends over summer break. House party, gaining momentum is going to be one of them. We need to watch for these style of trending apps.

So what is Houseparty? Houseparty is a group video conversation app. You can have up to 8 people in your live video Houseparty. Friends and friends of friends, can communicate with each other via live video and text messaging inside the app.

Remember there is no screening and the video is live, which means there is always the possibility of inappropriate content for children, but that of course depends on the friends who they are on the app with. Parents should remember also that users can send links on the app via a text message to whomever they want, and anyone can screenshot and share to anyone.

This one boils down to the basics again within app you have chat, video chat, direct messaging and sharing. Remember, if you find this app on your child’s device, the most important part is to find out who they are using it with.

House party – red cup, cup, red, glass, cup, solo cup, solo

Friendo

App Review – Friendo

Threat Level – High

Friendo is an app developed by the self titled company ‘Friendo’ and is available on the Apple and Android Mobile app stores. As for Category, it is a hybrid gaming app that has social ties. Now what do I mean about a ‘hybrid’ app? Simple. It’s a game, and it is social media all in one. Similar to the recent Facebook acquired TBH (to be honest) app, Friendo has went viral and has started climbing the trending charts since November of 2017

This app has several categories

that friends can quiz each other on, such as what their favorite foods or sports are, and other personality traits. Users take turns answering questions about each other, and they’re then ranked in an in-app leaderboard, which shows their scores. This is where the social side comes to play

Friendo is geared towards younger teens but the app’s terms of service states that users are required to be 13 or older. So why for the 13 or older? Because of the NSFW categories (Not Safe for Work). These NSFW “categories” of questions that any user can unlock by inviting three friends to join the app. It won’t take long for your child to invite three people. Trust me in that one.

An example of a NSFW category is MSFK (marry, sex, friend, kill) quizzes users on what they’d rather do with a given celebrity. Is this something your 10 year old should be reading? Another NSFW is called Dirty. It has questions like “In bed, I am..” and “if forced to, I’d rather watch a gross porno starring…” (one of the available answers includes, ‘my teacher’. As you can see there is a reason this app got a high threat level from some of the NSFW categories. Some of these may be humorous for adults, but definitely not for children. There is a feature that allows permission from the other person on the NSFW category once asked. Still doesn’t take much to accept.

Keywords – quiz, question App, November, quiz app, mask anything ask, Friend, Friends question, friends App, ask friends, smiley, emoji, blue, gray, smiling

TBH

App Review – TBH (to be honest)

Threat Level – Moderate

Tbh is an app created by a company called Midnight labs, but was recently bought out by Facebook in October 2017. TBH stands for “to be honest”. This is a common abbreviation used by your children in messaging. Users anonymously answer questions or take polls about their classmates. Users can answer questions, or submit their own questions or poles to others. And yes, there is the word parents should fear ‘anonymously’. Usually if it is anonymous it immediately ranks a high threat level.

So how does it work? The app relies heavily on the gps location of the users device. It basically has to have access to the users location inside the app to determine what schools are nearby so that the user can select the people they know that have registered or they know are affiliated with the school.

This app knew the safety concerns with cyber bullying and inappropriate polls, questions and comments so it took an extra step. The app requires permission through the developers before the questions are rolled out. This allows the company to help prevent inappropriate polls and questioning. All questions are multiple choice and a list of students friends names are choices.

Users earns gems when a poll is generated with their name in it. Gems basically act like trophies for users (blue trophies =boys Pink trophies=girls)

After much debate and review, I am going to give this a moderate threat level just to be safe due to a lot of anonymous polls. If you decide to let your child download and answer questions, have them show you what is going on around them and what polls they have been a part of. Just be careful. It appears depending on the school your child goes to will determine the activity of the data inside the TBH app. From this initial review it appears they do a pretty good job filtering anything that would be considered cyber bullying. When Facebook puts their name on it, they are going to try to keep it clean and they have the man power to do it.

Tags – white, tbh, black text, t b h

Sarahah

App Review – Sarahah

Threat Level – Very High

Sarahah is an app developed by Zainalabdin Tawfiq. If you haven't heard of this or seen anything about it, then get ready. It is already here and is the talk of the kids with school starting back. This app originated and has been growing in Saudi Arabia and Egypt with the biggest growth to date in India. With the amount of growth, it was a matter of time before it hit the United States…and guess what, it is here.

The Sarahah app is meant for sending and receiving feedback from others, anonymously. The creators described it by saying: Sarahah helps people self-develop by receiving constructive anonymous After you create a Sarahah profile, which anyone can visit (with or without account) people can visit your profile and leave messages, anonymously. If they have logged in, messages are still anonymous by default, but users can choose to tag their identity.

On the receiving side, all the messages show up in an inbox where you can flag messages, delete them, reply, or favourite them.

Parents must remember anonymity enables people to act out and behave in sometimes harmful ways without consideration for others. Even positive reviews still warn that this app is not for the weak but is marketed as a social interaction tool. If you scroll through the reviews that people are leaving, you will see a common thread of people receiving mean messages.

You can remove your profile from search results, limiting the people who you share your profile with, and you can also turn off access for unauthorised users. Right now you cannot right back which is a feature they are currently changing. You can also block senders, so you will never see any further messages. This seems like a sandbox for cyber bullying. We need to monitor this app very closely.

This isn't the first anonymous messaging app we've seen that took off. You have read my other reviews in past with Yik Yak, Secret and even Whisper. Sarahah's seems to look more at private messaging and less on social media, and so visiting another users' profile won't show anything, unless they choose to make the posts public. This app doesn't even require a login or account if you don't want one. This is a first for this style app. The email addresses you register with is usually a tool for marketing to generate income for the company.

As you can see, I gave this app a very high threat level. Do to its booming success and growth with kids, We need to remember anonymity apps such as this are really dangerous and cannot be monitored the way they need to be. Once negative anonymous messages are received, emotionally the damage is done to our children.

App Description – blue, turquoise, mail, mail app, blue mail, letter, blue and white letter

Bubble Chat

App Review – Bubble Chat

Threat Level – High


Bubble Chat is a free app designed by a company named Hit Labs. It appears this is Hit Labs first app for the Social Media genre and they went all in. 

Group texting has slowly become popular with teens and adults. I see my daughters using apps such as GroupMe and iMessage group texting with their friends. My daughters cheer team and gymnastics team utilize the group feature of GroupMe. You also see circles of friends of your children getting involved in group messaging to stay connected. 

So what is Bubble Chat? Bubble chat is a group texting app that has added a few extra features to make it stand out ahead of the competition. 

When you first download the app, it asks you what kind of group you are wanting to start. Sporting group, friend group, etc. The app will then ask for your phone number to confirm you do have a number to associate it with. After these couple of steps to setup, you are ready to start your group. The app makes you select one person to add to the group before the group is created. Once your group is live, you can then add more people to it. The app uses data to send messages rather than using your texting plan through your cell phone. Most text driven apps use data, either cellular or wifi depending on what you are connected to. 

If you use GroupMe or other messaging apps, the group text user interface will look similar. It has a chat window at bottom of screen along with buttons for sharing pictures, videos, gifs and stickers. You will also see a drop down menu at the top with the name of the group (or bubble) you are currently in. You can have multiple bubbles ..aka group chats.. going at one time. You will

notice in the lower menu there is a button for live video chat and also a menu of “celebrities” you can invite to your chat. I didn’t recognize any of the celebrities myself. They stated they were anything from professional models to MMa fighters. How often one of these so called celebrities will ever jump into someone’s chat is beyond me. Bubble Chat having this celebrity feature draws in curiosity from children. 

The live video chat feature is something that the many other competing group texting app doesn’t have. You can select the live chat and immediately start sharing live video with up to 10 people in your group. This is a good feature for the app, but unsupervised children and live video chat do not mix well. Adults or monitored chat for your children would be preferred for this feature. Add the “celebrity” chat and now you could have your children inviting strangers or so called celebrities to their chat groups. or live video streams. 

Other members of your groups or “bubbles” must have the app installed on their devices as well. The live chat feature along with inviting “celebrities” to your bubbles, is what bumped this group texting app up to a high threat level. 

Make sure if you let your kids use Bubble chat, you stay on top of who they are in chats with and especially who they are live chatting with in the video streams. 

Description – B, bubble, b letter, letter b, 3D b, neone b, bright color b, 3b’s, neon b, bubble, chat, GroupMe, group chat, group video, live video