Ever since the beginning of time kids have longed for spending time with friends. But there’s a digital world out there that allows their way of communicating to be forever changing. Nowadays, kids don’t have to rely on just transmitting words or pictures when they have the options to create, share and watch live video or participate in a group video-chat. To them, it’s like live TV and just as good as personally being with their friends.
Even though these apps give teens a sense of belonging, parents need to realize there are a few things to be aware of. Many teens follow people that gain fame with live-streaming; teens are fascinated with this new technological way of being famous and some teens will host anything and everything they can about themselves through live-streaming—even a crime or their own suicide. But as horrid as that sounds, live-streaming does have a benefit since politicians and Hollywood celebs are now getting into the act; it allows tweens and teens to participate in meaningful real-time events and obtain on-site news.
So what group video-chat and live-streaming apps are popular with tweens and teens? Join us and we’ll name them and discuss what you should know about each app.
Three Group Video-Chatting Apps
Houseparty – Teens don’t have to go to each other’s houses to hang out anymore; your teen can go to the privacy of her bedroom, close her door and visit her friend on her phone. In Houseparty, a group chat can contain up to 8 people and they can set up more than one chat room. They have the ability to lock the chat to prevent others from joining and you should encourage her to do so. If they don’t lock the chat and a friend’s friend or stranger joins the group, others will be notified and have the option to disconnect from the call. With this type of app, teens want to always be connected for fear they’ll miss something; so mature content, privacy, and predators can be a problem. Here are some other things to do and be aware of:
- Advise your teen to turn on the privacy settings whenever they are in Houseparty to keep the chats private.
- Since this app doesn’t verify ages, anyone could “eavesdrop” and even record or take screenshots of an unlocked group chat.
- It’s a good idea that your teen uses Houseparty within your earshot and you allow chats for family members and close friends only.
Airtime – This is more than just a group video chat app which is why tweens and teens adore it. With this app, your teen can share with their friends’ real-time pictures, videos and music from websites like Spotify and YouTube as they simultaneously video-chats or texts. Your teen also has control over the chat rooms they set up; they can insist on entrance requests, maintain a public or completely private chat room or restrict entries to friend’s friends. This sounds okay, right? It’s actually not okay. Here’s why:
- There aren’t any content filters on the internet meaning that they can search and see anything on the web.
- Airtime’s creators are allowed to keep anything that your teen uploads to the app and they’ll gather and share much info with third-parties.
Monkey – Teens need to have a Snapchat account to use Monkey. They like this app because its appearance is similar to Snapchat which makes it more comfortable for them to use. Monkey randomly matches your teen with users worldwide! Before connecting, your teen will view the gender, age and location of her perspective friend. Once matched, they can choose to have a 10-second video chat with that person or skip to the next match. Ten seconds isn’t very long so, if both agree, your teen can expand the chat time or add their new-found friend to Snapchat to keep chatting. You should be forewarned that:
- When signing up, your teen will have to give their Snapchat username and password as well as their phone number.
- It’ll also be alarming to know that Monkey’s terms and conditions say that the creators can share anything on their app with third-parties; this includes texts, posts, URLs, videos, pictures, messages, HTML’s and other material.
- What’s even more concerning is there aren’t any parental controls and, although the legal age to use Monkey is 13, there isn’t any age verification.
Six Live-Streaming Apps
YouNow – This very popular live-streaming app provides its own culture and celebrities from teens who like to be goofy to teens who display their own talent. What’s the good news about this app? It’s monitored and they frequently ban or block kids who swear in the comments or broadcast unsuitable content; when teens register, though, they’re provided with instructions on what will get them banned or blocked. Since it’s monitored and there are actual consequences for defiant streamers, YouNow is a bit better than most other live-streaming apps. What’s unique about this app is when your teen views a broadcast, they can buy gifts or gold bars which produces money for that streamer. Here’s what else you should know:
- It’s important that your teen understands that they’ll be possibly spending your money and the dangers of doing so unsupervised.
- Along with the usual hazards in live-streaming, there’s no promise that all mature stuff will be filtered out; so they may still see something you don’t want them to see.
- Most likely they’ll be in the comfort of her bedroom when they are live-streaming. This may be nice for her but being comfy can lead to the risk of oversharing. Stress to your child that oversharing is dangerous and why; let them know what’s okay and not okay to share.
Periscope – This app, which is owned by Twitter, allows anything to be broadcasted and viewed by your teen on the internet as it happens. Yup, anything they wants—and anyone from anywhere in the world can view his broadcast too. Sounds just like live TV, right? Well, Periscope takes it one step further: using live video or text, your teen can interact with other live-streamers and follow them. When they follow a user, they’ll get a notification when that person goes live. When your teen clicks on their stream, they’ll be able to see the username which isn’t a great thing if the person your teen’s viewing is a total stranger. However, the one good thing is that your teen can’t be seen unless they turn on their camera and it’s best to urge him to leave it off. Here are some more details you’re not aware of:
- Many live-stream broadcast apps don’t have a delay, as is the case with Periscope, and there’s no one monitoring it either.
- If your teen does a broadcast then they may be subject to harassing and bullying comments which that may not be able to handle.
- Your teen could possibly be exposed to streams of violence, criminal activity, sex and even suicides—which can be extremely disturbing to anyone especially a teen.
- What’s even more unsettling is that all live-streams are automatically set to “public”. So anyone can view a broadcast and even has the option to record it—that puts a chill up your spine, doesn’t it? It’s vital that you encourage your teen to do private broadcasts only and go over stuff that they could stumble upon.
Live.me – This app promotes fame and narcissism—and says so right in its name. The leading force of Live.me is being noticed and becoming a star—a dream of many teens these days. This is why it’s so popular with not only older teens but tweens too. It’s definitely a racier, more mature culture. Your teen will be able to watch broadcasts, meet stars, interact with streamers by commenting and sending virtual coins or gifts, develop a fan base, date, stream live videos to invisible broadcasters, meet friends and play games. Other things you need to know:
- Once your child signs up, they’ll get a notice which reminds them that sexual and violent material is forbidden and to report any issues. But that doesn’t give much comfort since it’s controlled by the users.
- A lot of bad behavior exists on here: crude humor, racial slurs, cursing, violence, references to drugs, alcohol and smoking and sexual content (both verbal and videos).
- The whole point to this app is for a user to get as many followers and viewers as they can; the riskier or more “entertaining” the stream, the more points they gain which means achieving a higher level. This app can certainly be addicting!
- Live.me lures many teens into thinking they are now popular online. That false sense of security could crush any teen’s psyche. If your teen really wants to use an app like this, we encourage them to use YouNow.
Instagram, YouTube Live and Facebook – These big-name apps have all the frills teens like and now have the capability for users to live-stream to their followers. It’s not very interactive though since followers only have the options to comment, like and watch at another time or in real-time. But there are still some issues:
- With live-streaming sexual, racy, or upsetting material can be seen by your teen. Why? Live-streaming is very hard to control. So, as you can imagine, her safety and privacy will be a huge problem.
- Like any other teen, your teen’s always looking for approval and, on these apps, she could be encouraged to do things that they wouldn’t normally do or share personal things about herself. This is why it’s essential that both of you go over your the app’s settings and, if needed, change the access setting to “friends only”.
- It’s also extremely important to make certain rules about watching and creating live streams, talk with them and make sure they understand the rules and why they’re in place.
Hype – Teens love this unique app for its fancy elements and the ability to add in pictures, videos, and music to their broadcasts. With this app, your teen can also view a recorded broadcast, subscribe to feeds, look at and leave stars and comments and check out when a streamer is live. They can even interact live with other viewers and delete saved streams. There are other possible dangers you need to be aware of:
- Besides the usual hazards discussed in this blog, when signing up, they’ll have the option of creating an account or using an existing Facebook account; if they choose their Facebook account, your teen’s full name will be shown to all Hype users.
- It’s best you recommend he create a special sign-in name.
- The good news is if your teen is 13-18 years old, they’ll need your permission to use the app.