Duo

App Review – Duo
Threat Level – Moderate

Duo is a video conferencing app made by Google Inc. Duo appears to be Googles answer to Apples video calling app FaceTime.


Duo is a live video conferencing app that is available on both major mobile operating systems. Duo works on IOS devices along with android devices. After a little research with some Android user friends, I have learned that even though Duo is programmed by Google and is their prime competition with Apple for live video conferencing aka FaceTime, the app is not preloaded on any versions of Android OS. So as of right now if you are an Android user, then you will have to go to the play store to download Duo.


Duo answers the long lasting question of how can I FaceTime from my iPhone to my friends Android phone. Ask no more. This app can be used on both devices with ease. Once you download the app, you are not required to enter any Google information. The app will use your phone number to allow others to video conference with you instead of requiring a gmail address, which if you have a cell phone then you have a phone number. This takes a lot of the hassle out of a registration process or having tongreat a gmail account. After Duo verifies your phone number, you are ready to start using the app. Verification is just a text message with a code that you must enter.
The ease of setup and simple interface makes the app easy to use.

The app will scan your contacts on your phone and list others who are already using Duo and puts the others in a list to themselves where inviting them is just a touch of their name. Duo does not have group video chat or any texting features at this time and has been developed for one on one video phone calling.

If you find this app on your child’s phone, remember this is an app that allows direct communication with live video to others. Make sure they know who they are video chatting with and the dangers of video chatting are obvious. With video chatting being the only avenue of communication, I gave a moderate threat level to the app and a common sense reminder of monitoring this app just like you would FaceTime.

Keyword search – duo, double, video chat, chat with video, FaceTime, apple FaceTime, video conference, blue, white, camera, blue circle with camera

Pokemon Go


App Review – Pokemon Go

Threat Level – Very Low

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past week then you probably at least have heard about the new mobile game called Pokemon Go that is now the number one app downloaded on the Google Play and IOS App Store. Pokemon Go has been out for less than two weeks and stats are showing that the app is being used more than Instagram, Snapchat and even messaging with and average of 43 minutes of use per user per day. This is the first time an app has been this out of the Shute popular since Facebook released their app. 

Pokemon Go is a game developed and programmed by Niantic, a programming division inside Nintendo Inc. The original company actually started a different augmented reality based game called Ingress before getting bought out by Nintendo after they seen its popularity. Now users are reaping the benefit of a stable Gps driven game. Pokemon Go is built on Ingress servers with the power of Nintendo and Pokemon behind it. This is by far Nintendo’s biggest mobile app launch yet under the Niantic name.  

Before I get into what the game is, let me define this games program engine and how it works. This style of game is called augmented reality. Augmented reality is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are supplemented (or augmented) by computer-generated input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. This is when a programmer uses the camera on your mobile device to let the user see things through their devices that are not really there. They uses Gps on your phone to know where you are and where the item is that you are interacting with. You have to hold your phone up and the app uses your camera to show you digital images or data that is not really there. This technology will continue to evolve (Pokemon Go pun intended) into other apps. Now that you have an understanding of augmented reality, lets dive into what Pokemon Go (the biggest augmented reality app to date) is all about. 

Pokemon Go is available on both major app markets IOS and Google Play for free with in game purchases of course (they have to make their money somewhere). After the app is downloaded, you begin by creating your account. You have two choices on launch screen for registering your new Pokemon Go account. One choice is to create your own Pokemon account with basic information including email address or the other misusing an existing Google account. I had a couple people ask me about articles they have read online about your data being used when you use Google. Rest assured people, Google is getting their data anytime you use any Google product, this isn’t anything new that Google is doing. What extent? No one really knows. And Apple has admitted to some data mining as well. It is nature of the beast and it is not going on everywhere. If you don’t want to be a part of that, then you would have to take yourself completely off the grid by staying off the internet and away from anything that has access to the Internet. Now that I have explained the obvious, lets get back to Pokemon Go. After an account is created, you are able to customize the look of your trainer. Select a male or female and customize their clothing and look. The basic gameplay story is you create a character (trainer) then go out and catch pocket monsters (aka Pokemon). Once you have captured them you collect them, train them and fight them against other trainers. 

The hunting of Pokemon is what is getting people outside and moving around. There is a total, as of launch (more to be added with updates) of 250 different Pokemon. To find them you must walk around and use your phones camera to see where they are around you. Different Pokemon will spawn in different areas. Sometimes if you are close to water, you might spawn more water based Pokemon to capture for example. Once you locate a Pokemon, you have to throw a poke ball at it to capture it for your library. You do this by sliding your finger towards the Pokemon and throwing a poke ball at it. You can run out of poke balls, but those are obtained by visiting what are called Poke stops. Poke stops can be seen on the map and accessed when you get near them. These predetermined areas on your map can be accessed and the player will receive poke balls or other items that will enhance your Pokemon captures . 

Once you have a Pokemon captured, you will be able to power it up with items you collect from collecting multiple of the same race of Pokemon, or items from Poke Stops. Once you power your Pokemon up strong enough, you are able to go to gyms and fight them. Gyms are designated areas (just like poke stops). That allow you to use your strongest Pokemon to battle other players Pokemon’s. If you win that gym, then your Pokemon will receive awards (loot and coin) for holding it by not being defeated by others over a 24 hour period.

One thing you might hear your children, husbands or wives talk about are factions. Inside the game at level 5, you must select a faction to fight for. There are 3 factions. Yellow, Blue or Red. Yellow faction is called Team Instinct. Blue faction is Team Mystic and red is Team Valor. This is just like choosing a team to be on to fight other teams. Once you fight a Pokemon at the gym, the winners faction (yellow, blue or red) will run that gym. It will change the color of it on players maps so they will know what faction the gym is representing at that time. So as you can tell, this game makes players walk around areas hunting Pokemon’s, looking for items to power them up and finally fighting them after you have evolved and powered them up. 

I gave Pokemon a very low threat level due to the zero connectivity to other players. At this point, you cannot connect to social media or other players. There is no social side to this game other than running into other players as you are walking around in the real world collecting Pokemon. Remember that these poke stops and gyms remain in the same place, so people will learn where to watch for people playing Poke mon. No need to be overly paranoid, just be aware. Also, some Pokemon come out at night only, so make sure your children are not trespassing on property such as parks or recreation centers after hours. I have talked to several fellow Pokemon Go players as I am playing. There are future updates to add abilities to trade captured Pokemon to other Pokemon trainers. There will have to be some kind of digital communication for that part, but no updates has been released yet. 

As for the question I got asked about if it is safe to let my kids play, and just l teach with all apps, play with your kids. Download Pokemon Go and explore the world with something your child likes. My wife and children are all playing Pokemon together and are having fun with it (go team Mystic by the way). Pokemon is on the path to break a lot of records in the mobile gaming world and has already captured the top spot on app stores as the most popular app in July of 2016. This will be the first of more augmented reality apps and a new generation of Pokemon hunters. As the games slogan says ‘Catch them all’. Good luck in your hunting adventures, I must wrap this up now due to a Pikachu being in my area. It’s time to go hunt Pokemon. 

App description – pokeball, red white ball, star background, blue background, white, red, ball, red and white poke ball, Pikachu, 

Live.Me


App Review – Live Me

Threat Level – High


Live me is an app developed by KS mobile Inc. It appears from a quick search, this company has been involved with a handful of applications for iPhone and android devices. Their library consists of anything from picture collage editing apps to live video streaming apps. It appears they took a jab at the photo sharing app. Live me however being the one app it appears they have put the most time into for all the features available. 


Live me advertises itself as the number 1 way to watch live streaming videos with video chat. With the growth of the app by Twitter called Periscope and also Facebook live video status updates, now is the time to get on the mainstream media train when it comes to live streaming apps. People are wanting to stream their content live instead of posting videos or still images. We started seeing a turn when it comes to broadcasting where a lot of tv reports are now streaming all their media live on several different streaming platforms. 
As for Live me, it appears from the advertisements attempting to market to younger adults but it does have a 17 plus rating in the description of app in App Store. It says the plus 17 rating is for infrequently crude humor, mild profanity and mild sexual content. Also mature, suggestive scenes. I realize this is a generic description in the app comments on why it is a plus 17 rating, so remember this if a child tries to download this app to their device. 


This app after download has a lot of the familiar looks of other social media apps. Once an account is made and profile set with email address, you are ready to stream yourself live over the app. The style looks and has the feel of an Instagram or other photo sharing style apps. You can follow other people and be notified when they start a live stream. Once a live stream is started you can hear and see whatever they are streaming and are able to make comments, and share stickers at the bottom of the screen. They advertise pretty hard the fact that they want this to be the number streaming app for celebrities by advertising ‘Connect with the top stars and become the next big viral celebrity yourself’. The app also allows you to send hearts as people are streaming and also allows you to send comments that appear to float off your screen in attempt to get viewers of streamers attention. So basically this app is a mix of the more popular live streaming services in Facebook and Periscope. You can also search hashtags for different topics and search for more than 500,000 ways to explore the users. You can see who follows them or find new people to follow based off other users preferences. 


I gave this app a high threat level due to the app being able to love stream content. At the time of my download and review however I did not see any pornographic or x rated content from users. I am assuming the company puts filters on this type of content and monitors it closely. This app is however intended for adult use but with the growth of this style of live steaming style apps, I encourage you as parents to make sure what your children are streaming and why. You can look at your child’s account inside live.me either by following them with an account of your own or by seeing on their device they intend to stream from. Most importantly for this app or any live streaming app, monitor who they are following or who is following them.  As with anything live, you never know who might be on the other side of this app viewing. Remind your kids that once they put something out on an app or the internet, it is gone forever. People could use that against them. Stay safe with this one. Adults only for any live streaming content or monitored at every use by a parent. 

App description – star, purple, pink, tourquiose, purple star, pink star, purple and pink star, live, live streaming

Animal Jam

App Review – Animal Jam
Threat Level – Low and Moderate


Animal Jam is a gaming app made by Wildworks incorporated along with endorsements from National Geograpic. Wildworks has also been involved in the creation of two other gaming apps called Tunnel Town and AJ jump. Both being animal themed games. Animal Jam is described at a game for ages 9 plus. The app is free but does offer in app purchases from .99 to 4.99. Like many gaming apps they want to offer the main product for free but still make some money from the in app purchases. Animal Jam is categorized under the gaming apps but does have some social ties once inside game. 

Once you download Animal Jam, you are asked to start new or login to your animal jam account. Animal jam has and is also available on the Via a web browser. Once you select to start new, you are dumped into character selection where you will have to choose one of the 3 animals. Bunny, Monkey or wolf. At this point you are able to do basic customization to your newly selected character. The first step is picking a name. You must select from the names in the provided window which is good because it does not allow users to customize in appropriate names. Now you are ready to enter your character into the Animal Jam game. One interesting, educational part of game is how it gives the player real life animal facts as the game screens are loading. 

Once in game, your character can run around and visit different locations. In this lobby style world is where you can see other players that are running around like you are. These are other players that have created characters like yourself. I noticed at this point, there are some chat options. When I hit the chat button, it gave me generic pre determined chat boxes such as ‘Hi there’ or ‘Goodbye’. It would not let me type any custom messages as a guest. If you want to type custom messages, you must create an account. 

If you decide to create an account, this will pull in the more social side of game and allow you to create friends list and communicate more openly with other players. There does appear to be some chat filters that won’t let users type certain things. On a side note, while reviewing app, I never got or seen any in appropriate messages. I kind of got hooked on some of the game elements and played this app for a couple days. If the chat features worry you, just never have them create an account to go fully open and then the chat is just predetermined chat bubbles. They will need a parents email address for registering anyway, so you will know if they create an account. Also while reading reviews of this app, I noticed a couple people staying they didn’t like having their accounts suspended for 24 hours for using curse words. This shows Animal Jam has moderators for their game and obviously enforce inappropriate behavior. 

Animal Jam is bright colored, fun game that encourages leveling up your different animals with challenging games. The added sponsorship from National Geographic helps keep the game safe. Scoring this threat level on this game would be two different scores. If you play game without creating your own account then I would give this app a low threat level. Once you create account to open more of social aspect, it would bump it to moderate. Mainly due to the open chat. Just monitor your children while they play this one occasionally or play with them to keep an eye on who they are playing with. The educational tips from the National Geographic animal side is a nice bonus. Anytime we can educate children inside s video game, the better.  


Keywords- animal, fox, blue fox, animal crossing, animal games, fox, smiling fox, happy fox, AJ

Scratch


App Review – Scratch

Threat Level – Very Low


Scratch is an app and website that encourages kids to become involved in the art of coding. Coding as in programming computer applications both PC and mobile driven. I wish this had been available 25 years ago when I was growing up. You can imagine this as being digital Legos where you can let your child use their imagination to develop programs. Seems like an excellent idea. Let’s learn some code!


Scratch is actual the name of the programming language associated with this computer programming and also has an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as animation, games and stories with people from all over the world. Scratch is available on IOS and Android and costs 99 cents. As children create with Scratch, they learn to think creatively and build applications with their digital toolbox. Scratch is designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab.
Scratch is aimed for ages 8-16 years olds and is marketed for them, but also encourages parents to become involved with their children. It is an educational app that is geared to get children motivated about computer programming and developing different types of apps. Scratch also has a very interactive website that shows other programs developed by people using Scratch. 


There is a social connection inside the app when it comes to sharing information or ideas on apps users are trying to develop. When participating in the Scratch online community, members can explore and experiment in an open learning community with other Scratch members from all ages and interests. Members can share their work, get feedback, and learn from each other. While I created my user profile and searched through different social communications from website, I didn’t see any inappropriate comments or issues that I felt would be potentially dangerous for our children. All the comments, questions and interactions seemed to be strictly about the scratch development. 

The MIT Scratch Team works with the community to maintain a friendly and respectful environment for people of all ages, races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities. You can help your child learn how to participate by reviewing the community rules as well. Members are asked to comment constructively and to help keep the website friendly by reporting any content that does not follow the community guidelines. You can tell they take great pride in keeping their material clean. The Scratch Team works to manage activity on the site and respond to reports, with the help of tools such as profanity filters as well. This is a very nice addition for app safety for children. 

I was very impressed with the effort they have put into their community to keep it clean. Scratch also offers an offline community if you don’t wish to get involved in the social side of communication within the app. It is obvious Scratch developers are trying really hard to keep their project as an educational tool and is very impressive. I wish all apps took precautions that I see with Scratch and its development team on their approach to online safety. 

-App description – cat, kitty, cat app, cat pic, brown cat, orange cat

The S.M.A.R.T Initiative — Social Media Awareness and Responsibility Training

Hello! Thank you for stopping by my S.M.A.R.T. Initiative – Social Media Awareness and Responsibility Training! Just a little corner of the world wide web where you’ll find various tools, links and app reviews concerning the online safety of our children.

Now is the time to get Primed rather than remain Paranoid; where Concern is Appraised!

Reviews
* description of apps, explanation of uses (or lack thereof), safety precautions, and age appropriateness

Ranking
* apps are categorized on a Scale; this is an opinion gauge – a Threat Level I personally & strongly trust. The Threat Levels begin at very low (fairly safe when used responsible) and end at very high (very dangerous, particularly for children)

Search a specific app or browse a previous review – just enter the title of the app in the search bar.  The search… bar is located on the right-hand side just down the page a bit – on this homepage, just scroll down and you’ll run right into it

Did you search for a specific app and you cannot find it here on S.M.A.R.T? No problem; send me a request!  Scroll to the very top of this page & click on, “Request app Review!”  Within 24 hours; I will research the app, have it ranked, and a breakdown will be posted right back here from your submission! I take great pride in assisting you with the education of Social Media with regards to your children.
Parents,  Social Media is not a fad; it is a change in the way we communicate.  Learn this social communication for the safety of our children.

Interested in a free live presentation where I discuss the 4-step process of keeping your children safe on social media?   Just scroll back up to the top of the page and click on “Upcoming Presentations,” where you will find a calendar of previously scheduled events! Hope to see ya soon!

Do you know… what they’re downloading… I do!

Woozworld


App Review – Woozworld

Threat Level – Moderate 

Woozworld is an app designed by the company with the same name ‘Woozworld’. Originally called kids studio 2.0 and based out of Montreal, Quebec, this app received several awards in 2011 and 2012 for most innovative technology company. As for safety, Woozworld does state they have In game moderators that constantly monitor behavior of players and states the following. ‘Members who engage in any behavior that breaks guidelines set by Woozworld faces punishment by moderators, ranging from temporary suspension to being permanently banned from the virtual social network. Woozworld also sets a fun but a helpful learning education about safety online’. It sounds as if Woozworld has done its homework on how to sound as safe as possible, let’s hope all this is true. 

This app and website is described as an app for fashionistas. It states you can create your own avatar and join millions in a virtual world personalizing your characters story and personalize your avatar with new outfits every week. Woozworld is available for free on both App Store and Google Play store (IOS and Android users). From reading the reviews and viewing website, this social media game is also available to play online through your computers browser, not just the app alone. The app like many others, let’s you download for free then requires money to purchase in game items to upgrade your characters look, buy more rooms for decorating and also allows you to purchase furniture for those additional rooms. They recommended age of app to be 4+. 

On download of app, it was over 100 megabytes so it requires you to wait until a wifi connection is available to download. Once downloaded, the setup process was very quick and easy. Unlike a lot of apps that are similar to this style, it did not require me to login with a username or didn’t require an account setup. Once downloaded, I was able to jump right into creating my avatar. An Avatar basically means you create a character. You select the basics in a menu. This being, male or female, hairstyle, body build and then onto clothes. After I created the look of my character, I was dumped straight into the game. 

Once inside of game, it asked me if I wanted a tutorial. I of course selected yes to get the basic idea of game and how to play. The concept of this app is similar to a Sim style video game. You get to create and select your own room. You setup your furniture and start to be able to build your own virtual world. As I looked around room during tutorial, it showed me how to move furniture and encouraged me to purchase more furniture from the in game store. The in game store is where they make there money. They also let you watch advertisements of company’s to earn in game money without spending real money. You can also spend real money in real life to get more ‘Beex’. Beex is what Woozworld calls its in game money. You can earn Beex as well without spending real life money by completing quests inside the game. These quests basically allow you to do various small things in game for rewards. You can also join the V.I.P status by joining to pay monthly fee of 5.99 (or a couple other packages) to earn special clothing, furniture and other rewards. This app reminded me of a Sims style game because of how you build the world around you. You can also buy more rooms in game to have multiple rooms to place more furniture and customize each room. This game does however have social ties. 

As I was playing the game to get familiar with the controls and to investigate if it was appropriate for children, I was able to figure out the first step of getting social. Remember how I said that you jumped straight into the game without registering an email and there was basically no setup needed, well I figured out why. When you setup, it gives your character a name of 128473682. Which I thought was an odd name. Just a random generated number. You are able to change this In game however but that requires you to setup an in game account with an email address and password for a login account. After you setup account, you are able to select your own name and save it. I did this and created my own name which the game told me could not be changed. During my research, I setup account with own name pretty easy. It did not require any money for setup or to change my name from a generic number to an actual name. It did warn me that my name could not be changed after this initial setup. 

Now that my name was setup, it loaded all the menus that allowed me to select different areas. I noticed there was now a social icon and also a way to travel to other lobbies to meet other people. The lobbies were public and once inside them, I could see other peoples characters and could interact with them. While I walked around these lobbies and tried to interact with others, I did not get any inappropriate messages or requests. I wanted to see if these people that I could see inside the public lobbies tried to chat with my character. While playing this game in the lobby for about 30 minutes, I never received a inappropriate messages from anyone, but it is very easy to chat with others. All you do is walk up in front of their character and click the chat icon. This icon has basic features such as add friend, chat and block. I am assuming this block feature is for people who try to chat in appropriately with others. I was able to interact with one person who told me not to curse because it would get me banned. I guess he had recently came off a ban where he said that he had made a new account due to being suspended for language. The ease of the chat feature was kind of scary for me but this game is designed to be social media gaming app. After chatting with this character for a minute, he sent me a friend request. Which I accepted to see what that meant. Basically it added his name to my friends list that allowed me to see when he was online and send messages to. It also allowed me to delete or block friend if needed. 

I feel like the app could have been a little more safety contentious and should allow parents to moderate chat to turn it on or off and to create filters, but it does not. So the social side to the game is wide open for chatting privately with others. 

You can tell this game has been around a while and has a large following with a lot of players. In every room I selected to go into, there were at least 5-10 other characters I could see that were playing at the same time I was. After walking around and completing my tasks to earn more Beex, I didn’t see any in inappropriate names or text being displayed. The potential obviously is there, but I did not see anything during my review.   

I gave this app a threat level of moderate. The reason being is the ease of the chat feature. If you’re going to allow your child to play the game, I recommend telling them to chat with their confirmed friends of who they know in real life versus chatting with strangers. You can monitor this by checking their friends list to make sure they are playing with or chatting with people they know. The game doesn’t require you to chat or become friends with others but it does encourage meeting new players like yourself. So just remember to monitor those chat seasons and openly communicate the importance of not chatting with strangers. 

I do feel the 4+ age group recommendation seems a little young. This seems more of a early teens app with a lot of reading and problem solving inside the quests. This game seems pretty innocent, but with the chat option available just monitor to make sure no one is trying to inappropriately trying to communicate with your child. As for the clothing and furniture you buy inside game with in game Beex money, I did not see anything inappropriate for purchase. 

As with any app that has a social chatting feature, communicate with your children about the dangers of chatting with strangers. I can see where this app could be fun for kids to build their character and decorate inside their virtual home, but make sure they understand that they don’t know who is on the other side of keyboard when playing with others.  

Keywords – Woozworld, wooz, Beex, social dame sims style, sims, building character, app with girls on front, girls, bratz, city, fashion, three girls, cityscape