Guide for parents in Singapore: the apps teenagers are using right now

From Tumblr to WhatsApp, Twitter to Snapchat, our millennial gives us the lowdown on the apps teenagers are using, and our mum responds...

We get it, kids: social media is here to stay, and no matter how many times we claim ‘in our day we had to speak to each other in person to make arrangements’, we know that apps for teens aren’t going away anytime soon. Or ever. Which is why we are trying to get on board… So with a little (okay, a lot) of help from the millennial in the team, and the odd helpful grunt from our own awkward teenager, we’ve come up with a guide for parents on the apps that the teens of Singapore are using right now, and what we need to know about them. Over to you, Sheralyn…

The millennial talks us through the apps we may, or may not, have heard of
Before we jump into the weird and wacky world of social media apps, there are a few things to note: these apps were made for adults by adults, so neither the apps nor the content creators will ever be held responsible for the content teens create or view. (In other words, if the teenagers get up to no good and start sending inappropriate selfies, it’s not Facebook’s fault).

Sheralyn the millennial

To say there’s any one app that teens use predominantly, and therefore making it easy for parents to keep an eye on (code talk for spy on), is, I’m afraid, not the case. Teenagers are a fickle lot, and in the world of social media they tend to flock to whatever app their friends, or the popular influencers, are using. It’s an app eat app world out there and the watchful eye of parents is just another factor… Welcome to the new millennium, mums and dads!

Facebook Messenger
Still going strong, Facebook has quite the monopoly when it comes to social media and social networking apps. “I’ll add you on Facebook” has replaced asking for someone’s phone number, and suffice to say most people (parents included) on the planet (wherever it isn’t banned at least) have a Facebook account. It’s easy to use (even for parents) and Facebook’s in-built messaging system is a more public platform to stay in touch with people you’ve met in real life. Although its voice and video call functions could stand to be a bit more stable, it’s a decent app with a very large bank of stickers. In an update this year, they pushed out extensions and games to play with friends.

Instagram is an image-based app that allows users to upload photos or videos and comment on or like other people’s content. It seems to have incorporated some Snapchat type functions of late, namely the Stories function where users can upload videos for 24 hours before they disappear into the internet void. It also allows people to live stream to their followers and send direct messages.

As one of the first messaging apps to replace texting (and later calling) on mobile, WhatsApp is still right up there and has over one billion users! Perfect for group chatting and file sharing, this app has been used worldwide since 2009 both professionally and personally. 

Pitched as the fastest messaging app on the market, this cloud-based app became popular when other apps such as Kakao Talk and WhatsApp were banned in some countries. It’s popular (but I still prefer to use other platforms) and its definable feature is its programmable bots that do all kinds of cool things including quizzes and, recently, payment functionality. Best of all, it’s more private and secure than WhatsApp.

Currently the world’s most popular microblogging tool for sending ‘tweets’ of no more than 140 characters long (though it might soon become 280), Twitter is used for everything from sharing personal status updates to carrying out social and scientific discussions, and even for social media reporting. Celebrities and politicians can mingle among the masses and we get their hot take on what shampoo to use or get to go all judgey pants on them based on how much sugar they put in their coffee. There’s also a private messaging function, though I’ve found it lags on mobile. Fun fact: it’s the number one most used social media app in Japan. (Note from Tracy: I created a Twitter account years ago but continue to have a complete mental block when it comes to using it. I plain ol‘ don’t get it. Somebody please teach me…)

When LiveJournal and MySpace died out, Tumblr took the stage and I was peer-pressured into joining this one in 2011. As a fully customisable blogging site, you can subscribe to a literal dashboard of content the same way you would for Twitter or Youtube by following other users. You can also ‘like’ or ‘reblog’ (share) other people’s content so that it becomes available to view on your own blog. It also implemented a real-time messaging system, in addition to its other messaging functions. (Another note from Tracy: I haven’t looked at this one yet, but why oh why is there a missing ‘e’ on what appears to be a blogging site? Which, to my mind, is about writing and sharing creativity? Will someone please tell Mr Tumblr that it needs an ‘e’?). 

This is the biggest messaging app in the US that teens are using right now. Teenagers can share stuff they don’t want to necessarily share forevermore, update stories and send photos in the knowledge that all the info will be deleted within 24 hours. It also informs you if some sneak screenshots something you post. Other plus points include ready information on celebrity events and media functions, so you can stay on top of the social buzz happening right now. And of course there are those Snapchat filters…  (Me again: this is the one that teenagers use to send nude selfies, right? Hmmm. Not sure of my thoughts about this. But I do look good with dog ears). 

Tencent QQ
We know China isn’t very Google-friendly, neither is it on speaking terms with Facebook, however, they have messaging apps there and among them is Tencent QQ and WeChat. QQ is more popular among the Chinese-speaking community since the international version is pretty user unfriendly. QQ itself is very handy. Not only can you send files from your phone to your computer, you can call, live stream from your phone, and even send money to your friends. This is the all-in-one, folks. Of course, it is in Chinese. (Yep. Me. Maybe a good one to help with my kids’ Mandarin lessons? I’m on board).

We Heart It
The official mood board of the internet, this “home for your inspiration” is like Pinterest sans words, and populated mostly by females under the age of 24. Being an image-only sharing site, people can choose to “heart” your content or simply ignore it – there is no other option. Messages are image-based too. Unfortunately, it has no control over plagiarism or reproducing stolen images (including photos you might want to keep private!). 

You have to be a gamer to use this. Just kidding, it’s the new free software that has quickly overtaken many other VoIPs (Voice over Internet Protocol, ie making calls via the Internet) like Teamspeak, Ventrillo and recently, Skype. It comes as an app, a downloadable program and is even browser-supported. What’s most impressive is its ability to host several hundred people in a group chat (and group call!) at once. They should be pushing out video calls soon but we expect big things from Discord. (Tracy here: Hang on… No one uses Skype anymore? Really? Feeling a bit of discord myself over that). 

Tracy the mum

What’s the mum’s take on all these apps?
Well, when I first started reading Sheralyn’s list, I was briefly quite smug that I had not only heard of the first three, but actually had an account for each of them too. But then I quickly fell short of ‘cool parent’ when the rest of the list read like some sort of science fiction novel. Telegram? Something we sent before the days of emails. Tumblr? The missing ‘e’ makes my eyes hurt and my throat itch. And Discord is definitely what I am feeling over that missing ‘e’. It seems I have a lot to learn and a fair few apps I need to download to keep my parental eye on (yep, spy). And has Skype really gone the way of the video cassette, the walkman and bell bottomed jeans? So much to learn. #noclue

Check out our other articles in the series: Should parents monitor the social media accounts of their tweens and teens? and How teens stay private and how parents can manage this.

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