At Digital Awareness UK, we speak to thousands of young people each week and get exclusive access to their insights on the latest apps and crazes that are sweeping across the online world.
We know that for many parents, keeping up to date with the risks, age ratings and features can feel like a part time job. You may have heard of Snapchat and Instagram, but here are five popular apps that might sound less familiar, shared by those who are using them, along with some top tips for parents.
VSCO (13 +)
If you hear your child talking about VSCO or Visco, then they’re probably talking about the image editing app. For a monthly subscription, the app allows users to easily edit and post pictures and videos using filters to make them social media-ready. VSCO has soared in popularity with over two million users to-date, because in addition to its flashy filters, it doesn’t allow users to comment on or ‘like’ posts unlike other similar apps. The app also shouts about the fact it doesn’t sell users’ data.
The VSCO Girl trend is where it gets interesting, and many young teenage girls aspire to be one. A VSCO Girl is said to be “on trend” in terms of how they dress, act and post on social media. Our students tell us that the VSCO Girl is environmentally conscious and typically identified by messy buns, baggy t-shirts, scrunchies, shell necklaces and “effortless beauty”. The VSCO Girl meme can be found all over social media and the hashtag #vscogirl has been used more than one million times on Instagram alone.
You can’t make your VSCO account private or see who’s following you, so talk to your child about the consequences of sharing private information. Location-based information appears on shared images, however location sharing features can be disabled. It may also be worth speaking to your child about how they present themselves online and the pressures that they may face to fit in with trends.
TELLONYM and YOLO (17 +)
Tellonym and YOLO are currently winning the race to be the most popular anonymous messaging apps used by teens, with millions using them to chat and voice their opinions without being tracked.
YOLO can be used in conjunction with your child’s Snapchat account and Tellonym can be linked to their Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram accounts. Whilst we find that today many teens are aware of the downsides associated with anonymous apps (such as abuse), they still appeal to those who want to have honest conversations with others about anything from what they look like to how popular they are.
As with all anonymous apps, both Tellonym and YOLO come with the possibility of your child receiving abusive messages, so ensure your children know how to manage online bullying – not just through ‘blocking’ and ‘reporting’ but by talking about what’s happened. It’s important to discuss with your child the benefits and consequences of sharing opinions anonymously and to think about how they would respond to something upsetting.
TIKTOK (13 +)
With over 500 million monthly users, TikTok has young people dancing and lip-syncing across the world right now and it certainly doesn’t seem to be getting any less popular. Previously known as Musical.ly, TikTok allows users to upload short videos of themselves set to popular music and audio. Videos tend to be humorous with fun filters provided by the app.
Like Instagrammers and YouTubers, TikTokers are users who can be extremely influential and earn large sums of money. Many of our students see them as celebrities and aspire to become successful TikTokers themselves.
The app offers endless creativity, self-expression and imagination, but comes with similar risks to other social media networks such as exposure to inappropriate content, grooming and bullying.
DISCORD (13 +)
The social aspect of video gaming can be just as important as playing the games themselves, which is why it’s important for parents to get to grips with how apps such as Discord are used by their children to create relationships and have fun.
Similar to leading live streaming platform Twitch, Discord allows users to chat to other users publicly and privately whilst playing their favourite video games.
Our students tell us that connecting with other players through chats adds a bit of competition or even mentorship. There are features within the app that allow users to make new friends over common interests and be part of huge communities.
As with any app that provides one-to-one or group chat features, Discord can lead to bullies or groomers interacting online with your child, or the possibility of them seeing inappropriate content. Have a good play around with the app’s ‘Privacy & Safety’ settings to ensure you and your child are happy with them as well as discussing the benefits and risks of chatting to users they may not know. Something we hear time and time again is that teens love it when their parents take an interest in the video games they play, so why not pull up a chair and get stuck in to find out what it’s all about!
If you sense that your child isn’t opening up to you, encourage them to seek support from a trusted young people’s service, such as YoungMinds Crisis Messenger and Childline
Digital Awareness UK is a leading digital wellbeing organisation working with schools and organisations in the UK and internationally.