New (ISH) apps and what they do

Dubsmash

Age restriction: 13

What it does

A fun and creative space, which enables you to lip sync or “dub” over a memorable line from a film, TV programme or song. For example “Here’s Johnny” (The Shining) or “Just keep swimming”(Finding Nemo).

You can also upload your own piece of audio for others to dub over, the more it gets dubbed over, the more popular it becomes, and the more it gets featured. Once you’re happy with your “dub”, you can share it to your profile for your followers to see.

You can connect with people via dubs and also send private messages, but you have to be friends with someone to view their dubs.

Dubsmash has actually been around for quite a few years, but has recently increased in popularity. This could be because if you download Musical.ly (one of the most popular apps for young people right now) it suggests you try Dubsmash.

Potential risks

  • The private message function increases the potential for grooming – advice on how to keep young people safe on social media

  • Creative apps like this can lend themselves to online bullying incidents – young people using the app should have the resilience to deal with this.

Helpline's Perspective

In testing the app we had lots of fun, it’s entertaining and creative, but it does get old quite quickly so it’s recent spike in popularity could just be a flash in the pan.


Boomerang

Age restriction: 13 (purely because of where you share the content)

What it does

Boomerang allows users to create moving pictures - basically a very short video that plays on loop.

You can then share your boomerang on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, by email etc.  You don’t need to have a Boomerang account, you don’t connect with people and there is no message function.

Potential risk

  • The biggest risk is where you choose to share your Boomerang, so young people need to be aware about the power of online images and being careful not to share personal information within them.

Helpline's Perspective

Noting to write home about here, it’s fun, creative and a different way to create content.


Avakin Life

Age restriction: 17+

What it does

Remember Sims? Avakin Life is similar; you create an avatar, form relationships, earn money and spend it on new clothes, cars and homes. There is a bit more emphasis on sex and relationships with options to flirt, be scantily clad and chat is full of suggestive comments.

Profiles connect through Facebook or email, and users interact with anyone else playing the game at the same time. They can add friends and then send private messages or openly chat with anyone in the same room or location in the game.

Potential risks

  • The private message function does open up the possibility of grooming, and as the game appears to be quite sexually charged, there is quite a high risk of this.

  • The whole premise of the game is quite grown up, as you are encouraged to flirt and chat. It also perpetuates body image issues, with every avatar being a perfect representation of a skinny blonde or a hunky man.

  • Before setting up an account, you do need to verify your age and the privacy policy does reiterate that users must be at least 17. However it also specifies that any personal information shared in the game, including birth date and location, even within chat and private message, can be captured, stored, and used, which is concerning.

Helpline's Perspective

This really isn’t a game for young children, and it could attract some unsavoury types. If this on your child’s phone, we’d recommend that you have a conversation with them about it.


Drawing Apps

Age restrictions: Usually 13, in line with COPPA

What they do

There are hundreds of drawing apps on the market. Popular with children, these apps encourage creativity, and being mobile based means you can dip in and out of your master piece whenever you like.

Some may ask for permissions to your photos and videos, so you can upload them to the app to adapt/enhance them. Some also have a private message function so users can chat and swap drawings.

Potential Risks

  • These are aimed at young people so, much like in the offline world, predators can be attracted to places where there are a lot of children. This combined with a private message function could cause some problems.

  • However in most of these apps you can adjust the privacy settings so the app can be used purely for drawing.

Helpline's Perspective

These apps are fun, without the mess, and are great for long journeys and those quiet moments. Just be aware of the message function and learn how to turn it off.


HouseParty – Group video chat

Age Restrictions: 13+

What it does

Friends (and friends of friends) communicate with each other via live video in groups of up to 8 people, they can also send text and private messages. Users can send links to their profiles on the app via a text message.

Potential Risks

  • Exposure to inappropriate content - because there's no screening, and the video is live, there's always the possibility of children seeing something unsuitable, but that will largely depend on who they’re communicating with.
  • There is a potential for grooming - it’s not unheard of that adults could befriend children and join chats in order to expose themselves in a sexual manner.
  • Bullying - people could be excluded from chats, while it is also possible to take screen shots whilst chatting, which could then be shared on.

Helpline's Perspective

It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, like its predecessor Meerkat, there are always risks associated with sharing videos and apps with messaging capabilities, but they can be used in a safe and enjoyable way.

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