phone applications

Secret Phone Apps

Secret phone apps have been a hot topic in the news lately about high school students, and noteworthy of discussing to bring awareness to the subject matter.  As if life wasn’t scary enough for us parents, here is another issue for us to look for and monitor.  The applications are not necessarily new, but the technology is constantly advancing.  Private photo vault applications on smart phones can have the appearance of very basic images such as calculators and calendars.   Once you open the application, you can enter a secret code or two, and this is where the dark side of smart phones can begin.  Hidden images that students would not want their parents to see are being stored and shared by students.  Students think these pictures are hidden on the apps, but there is nothing to appssay that the developers of these apps could not expose the pictures.  These types of news stories have headlined nationally over the past year and are raising major concerns.

How can parents spot these vault applications, as most are rated E for everyone?  Parents need to look for multiple versions of the same app on their child’s phone.  The most common is the calculator app.  Also, check your child’s phone history for new app downloads and then search the app with a Google search to understand its content.

Teens love similar applications that may be more familiar such as Snapchat, Kik, and Whisper.  Again, all trending applications where messages seem to disappear, yet do they really?  An article that I found extremely helpful with this information is linked here: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/snapchat-kik-and-6-more-iffy-messaging-apps-teens-love.

This article not only explains several trending applications, but offers very helpful information regarding each application, and outlining what parents need to know.

Helpful hints for parents (and most likely easier said than done!):

  • Don’t let your children take their phones to bed with them at night.
  • Don’t let them have a phone without parental supervision.
  • If your child uses a family computer, keep it in the open, and under supervision.

Again, this is obviously not an easy subject matter, but it’s one that can even lead to severe legal penalties to the students and their parents.  These types of things may not be the easiest to monitor or catch, but at least you have a few more clues on what to discuss openly with your child.  Open communication may prevent the issue from even beginning.  I wish all of you parents, and myself, the best of luck on this topic!  Darn that social media!

How Will You Get Your Message Across?

Today there seems to be so many phone apps that it’s almost impossible to get them all straight. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, games in general, food networks, music channels, and the list goes on and on. I should also clarify that when I talk about apps here, I am not referencing finger food, but rather downloaded software applications for smart phones! Specifically, I’d like to focus on a discussion surrounding the messaging applications. What are considered the best and why?

I’ll begin with WhatsApp Inc. As if Facebook doesn’t own enough technology, this past February, Facebook negotiated a $19 billion takeover deal of WhatsApp Inc. (a global messaging tool). The goal of this mega deal is playing out exactly as it was set out to do, “connect 4 to 5 billion people over the next five years,” writes Parmy Olson of the Forbes staff.

One of the founders of the app, Jan Koum, just announced last month they had hit 600 million monthly active users (Forbes, Aug. 2014). The way they average the number whatsappcrunching, they are gaining almost 833,000 active users per day. This is astonishing to me! Critics also tend to scrutinize active users vs. registered users, as there is a difference. It’s a fact that many of us download apps and then never look at them past day one. Yet, these reported numbers still speak volumes for WhatsApp Inc., and they are steadily increasing.

Founded in the Silicon Valley, WhatsApp Inc. was intended to be branded as the “what’s up” messaging tool. It’s a popular tool that can cross platforms between iPhones, Blackberries, Androids, etc. This particular app is very well recognized within the European culture, and is gaining popularity here in the US. I’m not incredibly familiar with it but I’m sure it’s going to be become very trendy, very soon.

Maybe you’ve tried WhatsApp and you weren’t a fan? If that’s the case, no worries, as there are numerous other messaging applications that you can download for your own personal use.

Other popular messaging applications include:  

  • Facebook Messenger – A very easy and convenient tool for conversing with friends and family, both over wifi and cellular networks. Recent changes have made this a separate app download from Facebook itself, and focuses strictly on being a messaging tool. This app also allows for voice messages, charging data use rather than cellular minutes.
  • Skype – Skype is one of the most widely used messaging services and can be an option for any platform. You can send standard text-only messages, audio messages, and conduct video calls.
  • Google Hangouts – This app lets you link up your existing Google account and view all of your Gtalk and Google+ contacts all in one place. Video and audio are also available.   This is a fantastic tool when used in the U.S. and Canada, as these users receive zero charges (except for incurred data).
  • Line – A messaging app that is available world-wide. This app also supports video and audio, and there is a movie feature where you can video a short film and send it to your contacts.

So many options, so little time, right? I wrote this article to point out some of the best messengers available for your smart phone. Some apps are more user-friendly than others, but all share the same main features: texting ability, audio/video capability, global availability, user-friendliness, and, for the most part, free!

We’d love to hear your feedback as well! Do you find one app more efficient than another? Have you ever even heard of WhatsApp? Which of those referenced above are your favorites and why?

Technology is ever-changing and it is communication that allows us to move forward, learn, keep challenged, and remain satisfied. Whatever your choices become, get out there and have fun with them. If one option doesn’t work the best for you, always remember that you are just one click away from un-installing and moving to the next big trend.