Youth Culture Window

What Do You Know About Me?

Dynamic ImageIn bed, I am:

    • Aggressive

 

    • Passive

 

    • A mix between aggressive and passive

 

    Passive aggressive

That’s just one of the questions from a new app that’s growing in popularity with young kids.

Friends With…Questions?
FriendO, a relatively new app that allows users to quiz each other about interests, likes, school, beliefs, entertainment, and more is attracting droves of middle school students. According to statistics provided by the app developer, 84% of the 500,000 downloads in November were by kids in junior high.

The game operates simply: download the app, invite friends to join, then start asking and answering questions about each other. (In case you want to see it in action, the overly-excited girl in this YouTube video demonstrates how FriendO works.) Users can play with as many friends as they want at the same time, and because the whole point of the game is to find out how well you and your friends know one another, there’s little worry about kids interacting with some creepy guy from Alabama.

Developers created standard categories for players to use in their back-and-forth quizzes with one another. For example, What I Eat, My Sports, Random, My Personality, Celebrities, and Question of the Day, are just a few of those provided. But where the app is causing unrest among parents is in the categories players can unlock as they keep using the app.

Earlier this week, I took the time to download the app, invite friends to join me, and navigate through tons of questions in the long list of categories the app offers. Interestingly enough, the very first category I “unlocked” after meeting the initial quota of inviting three friends to play was “Flirty.” That category came with a warning that some of the content ahead might be of an adult nature…even though the app is rated T for Teen in the Google Play Store. To gain access to the Flirty category, I had to click a button stating I’d be OK with that possibility, and after saying yes, I was given access to questions like:

 

  • At what age did I have my first kiss? 12-14, 15-16, 17-20, 21+.
  • Would I go all out for a date on Valentine’s Day or for my partner’s birthday? Valentine’s Day, Their birthday.
  • I like the feel of a beard tickling my face? Yes, No.

After inviting three more friends to join, I was given access to the “Star Wars” category. (The extra categories seem to be unlocked at random because several of my friends opened up other categories that I did not have access to at that point, and vice versa.) After annoying yet another trio of my friends to join the game, I was able to unlock “Dating” as my next category. It also came with the same “adult stuff is coming your way” warning. Those questions included:

 

  • I’ve dated a sugar mama/daddy before. True? False?
  • If a casual relationship needed me to marry them for citizenship I’d: Ghost them, Do it to be helpful, Do it and expect a favor, Volunteer someone else.
  • The creepiest thing a date can do is: Know my mother’s name, Eat live spiders, Crawl on all fours, Know where I live.

Another category entitled “Dirty” is also available. Though it didn’t unlock for me, it has for many others, and some of those questions move the needle much closer to mature. In addition to the question at the top of this article about how a user acts in bed, there are questions like:

If forced to, I’d rather watch a gross porno starring:

     My 7th grade math teacher, My next door neighbor.

There’s also a category called “MSFK” which stands for “marry, sex, friend, or kill” and asks users what action they’d take with a certain celebrity. Since FriendO includes these kinds of categories/questions and introduces a new platform for potential cyberbullying, it’s little wonder why parents aren’t exactly “friendly” with the app FriendO.

The Power of Relationships
The surging popularity of FriendO underscores one of humanity’s basic needs: belonging. All of us want to know we’re loved, appreciated, known, and accepted by others. In one sense, FriendO provides that basic necessity because kids want to know what the world – and especially their friends – thinks of them. After all, a kid feels good when his or her BFF knows their favorite movie, song, or activity; that knowledge bolsters camaraderie. Unfortunately, FriendO’s accompanying material isn’t always healthy.

So, what can caring adults like youth workers and parents do to fill the universal need while keeping kids safe in a connected environment? Here are two ideas.

 

  1. Make sure kids have a functioning self-esteem.
    Ironically, millions of kids – and adults – get their sense of self-esteem from anyone and everyone EXCEPT self. (“Britney called me fat…so I must be fat,” or “Chad said I wasn’t a good player, so it must be true.”) Too often, a kid’s sense of self-esteem is what others say about him or her…or even what a kid thinks someone else believes about him or her! One of our biggest roles as adults is to be an honest source of encouragement for our kids. At the very least, that means we provide verbal inspiration that not only encourages them, but challenges them, too. If our kids have a healthy and accurate view of themselves, they won’t be dependent on others creating a self-esteem for them. Pour encouragement and ambition into the kids in your life on a regular basis.
  2. Provide fun and safe alternatives.
    To avoid FOMO (fear of missing out) almost every kid will want to be a part of something like FriendO. However, that particular app which borders on risqué isn’t the only game that allows kids to interacting by asking and answering questions. The well-known app tbh, “is a free social networking app that lets friends anonymously answer questions about one another.” tbh operates just as simply as FriendO, but the completely harmless and thought-provoking questions regulated by the developers are designed to promote “love and positivity” among young people. In fact, one of the goals tbh co-founder Nikita Bier has for his app is “improving the mental health of millions of teens.” So, if your kid wants to play a “how well do you know me?” game, point them towards tbh, instead.

Kids consciously (and unconsciously) seek answers to the question, “What do you think of me?” Make sure you have the best answers and share them with your kids as often as possible.

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David R. Smith

David R. Smith

David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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