Mumbai: Is your teen hooked to risky apps?

Apr 16, 2017, 09:55 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

In a time of suicides and depression, here's a guide to the latest apps that could harm a teen's self-esteem

Representation pic
Representation pic works because people like getting feedback about themselves. They want to know what people think about them," says a 14-year-old Lokhandwala teenager, who we are chatting with on Instagram. She has a link to Sayat.Me on her account, which is a web tool designed to "get anonymous and honest feedback about yourself".

Most popular with teenagers, lets people send you their opinion, without knowing who they are. "They think they will only receive good feedback, but most people are taking advantage of this [anonymity] and sending vile and lewd comments. One of my friends got a comment that said 'you have nice b****, I would love to play with them. But, it's addictive. My parents don't know I use the app."

Another 15-year-old from Versova, has a nonchalant spin on why every teen is using it. "It's like any other app. You are using it because your friends are using it. It's supposed to be a 'feel good' app, but most of the feedback borders on objectionable. Many girls have got messages from their 'admirers' saying 'they would harm themselves' if their love wasn't reciprocated."

In the world that we live, where one bad review could lead to disaster, why would an app encourage "anonymous feedback". When we got in touch with the team, they were of the opinion that it's a "simple tool to gather honest and constructive feedback. Being able to get feedback is getting pivotal in business and self-development."

A team member, Hanna Talving, told us over email, "We can see from the posts all around the social networks that vast majority of Sayat.Me users are motivated by the positive words their friends, acquaintances or followers say. If the tool gets misused for the purposes that they are not supposed to be used for, that is a very small fraction of people we are talking about. We are currently working on the issue and developing some means to eliminate this behaviour."

Sayat.Me, which is an American company, Talving says, has recently become a trending topic amongst Indian users with millions of users visiting the site in a day. "The bigger we get, so is our team.

The bigger we get the better we're able to prevent any negative issues that come with managing social platforms," she says.

Dangers of an App

Sayat.Me is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are four others you need to keep an eye out for

Ask.Fm: A Sayat.Me clone, Ask.Fm has over 50 million active users. They believe that “questions and answers are the building blocks of conversation, self-expression and deeper understanding”. It lets the user ask a question, and get anonymous replies, and the user can also get asked questions by anonymous users. This app does have a way to make the replies and questions public as well. It's less, more ask me anything.

Omegle is an app that lets you talk to strangers

Omegle: The 90s kids will remember the chat rooms on Yahoo and MSN where you could talk to a stranger from any part of the world, and be asked ASL — which, basically translated to age, sex and location. The kids today have their own version in the form of Omegle, which provides users a chance to converse online with random strangers. And, there are no conversation rules. This is a recipe for disaster.

Audio Manager: To hide all the above apps, your street-smart teenager may be using an app like Audio Manager, which has nothing to do with phonetics. When you press and hold the Audio Manager app, a lock screen is revealed — users can hide messages, photos, videos, and other apps behind this.

Yellow is an app that changes Snapchat into Tinder
Yellow is an app that changes Snapchat into Tinder

Yellow: Snapchat alone may be less harmful, but with Yellow, it turns into a Tinder of sorts. The app, which describes itself as "an easy and free way to make new friends and chat with them", lets users "match with each other by swiping right on a series of profiles that pop up on their screen", and then lets them add each other on Snapchat. The alarming thing is that children between the ages of 13 and 17 can sign up, and so can adults. It doesn't allow users above the age of 18 to connect with younger users, but since it doesn't verify age, people can lie about that. And, once it shifts to Snapchat, it's wild country. 

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