What apps are your kids using?

The pros and cons of Vine, Snapchat, among others

Editor’s Note: This is our first installation of the Plugged In column, a column for parents that contains information and resources to navigate the ever-changing, and sometimes complicated world of technology. Would you like to see a topic covered in this column? Email editor@parentingnh.com.

Times have changed. It’s a cyber-world out there and our teens, and even younger kids, are using it to their advantage to creatively communicate with each other. Here are some of the most popular applications kids are using along with what’s good about them and what could potentially cause trouble.

Vine – Vine is a video sharing app. It allows users to create short 7-second video clips that can be uploaded to various sites.

Pros: People can do a lot with 7 seconds of video. Creative users have used Vine for storytelling and even advertising. The average user uses Vine to record various aspects of their day like being on the school bus, opening presents, and tasting that gray stuff that’s being served for lunch. Think of Vine as a short glimpse into a specific part of someone’s day.

Cons: As with all internet sharing, kids may not realize how much information they are sending out. Users tend to focus on the foreground and forget that there is a background in what they are recording. This has gotten some people in trouble for things like drug use and drinking. Vine has been used for cyberbullying and has been used for pornography. Some people mistakenly think “what’s 7 seconds going to do?” The answer to that is …potentially a lot.

Snapchat – Snapchat is a photo and video sharing site where the material is seen for only a few seconds and then “disappears.”

Pros: Snapchat is literally a snapshot of your life. Lots of kids use it to take selfies (self-portraits) of how they feel about something (bored, excited) or where they are (at the mall, the theater). Snapchats are also used to express how you feel about what you’ve been sent (“Sad face” because you didn’t invite me.) The video aspect is similar to Vine except the videos are only available for a short time.

Cons: Along with the cons listed for Vine, it is important to know that Snapchat has been used for pornographic uses. Although the image is supposed to “disappear” there are ways to capture the image and videos, which have created headaches for some users. Also, because the image is short-lived, Snapchat has been used for cyberbullying because the “proof” disappears.

Twitter – Twitter is a mini blog application. You are allowed 140 characters in which to join in a conversation. Those who follow you can comment on what you’ve said. Links to websites, photos, or blog posts can be attached to your comments.

Pros: In real time Twitter has dispersed important information out sooner than traditional media. In a disaster situation, you’ll soon find survivors tweeting about the situation. Also, during a live event, (concert, athletic event) you can be involved in an international conversation. One way that Twitter has allowed you to focus on certain comments is to use a hashtag (#) attached to a keyword. (#Olympics). By using a #, you can search Twitter for comments on that subject. Twitter is also being used more and more by teams and groups as a way to get information out (like the rehearsal is canceled for tonight.)

Cons: There are a lot of tweets out there and it’s difficult to keep up with the conversation. Some people like to try to trick people and will post false information about an event. Also, people have to be online to respond, resulting in some of the conversations occurring over days.

Facebook – Facebook is a place to have ongoing internet discussions with friends. You are allowed to post photos and articles on your page and you can comment on what your “friends” (those who have agreed to communicate with you) have posted.

Pros: Facebook is a place where kids hang out and “talk” with each other. There are different pages set up for various interests and so while you could go see what groups like “One Direction” or “Springfield Gardeners” are up to. Facebook is also often used to post things like school team information. There are some safeguards on Facebook and if someone complains about material that has been posted, (offensive or abusive) Facebook will look into it and will potentially take the material down or close down the account.

Cons: Through Facebook you are exposed to a lot of online games. For some people, especially kids, these games can quickly become addictive and take up a lot of time. Also, marketers try to get information from Facebook users and frequently there will be a post like “Find out what storybook character you are most like” and when you click on the link you are asked to provide personal information. The best way to handle this is to tell kids that if you click on a link and it asks you for additional information, leave the link.

Wendy Thomas lives in Merrimack with her husband and six children, and has been published in various regional magazines and newspapers. Contact her at wethomas@gmail.com.

Categories: Plugged In, Technology and Social Media