This title may be a little misleading—perhaps it should be “student social media tools I have never heard of.” Some of these sites are more prominent, more familiar, and have more subscribers than others. All of them fit into a category of networking or social sites that students in your school are probably using. Beyond Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, here are a few that you need to know about:
Yik Yak: This site, typically used by college-aged students, has different topics or feeds and allows users to connect with people nearby. Since the site is anonymous, comments can vary greatly in content. Because of this, Yik Yak is actually blocked when you are around a school building. What you need to know: This site is generally humorous, but can also be very inappropriate. It also has a potential bullying component because of its anonymous nature.
- musical.ly: This is a fun app that allows students to video themselves as they sing, dance, or lip sync along to a song. Videos are uploaded and then can be commented on or liked. Users can also search for videos and share with one another. What you need to know: The number one concern is adult—sometimes pornographic—material that can be found when searching. There can also be the same issues that can be found with other sites, such as students commenting negatively on other students’ content.
- Live.ly: This app, created by the same makers as musical.ly, has the same concept. Users can share live videos with others and can also search for content from others. What you need to know: The concerns about this one are the same as the Music.ly: inappropriate content and the possibility of negative comments from others.
- MeetMe: This is one of those apps that should be looked at with great caution. The concept of the app is that users—primarily on mobile devices—can connect with new people in various locations by using the app. The target audience is adults and not students, but there are students who experiment with it. What you need to know: This is can be a dangerous app for students because of the risk of anonymously meeting with strangers.
- Snapchat: This is probably the most well-known app on the list, and it definitely has the most users currently. Snapchat claims to allow pictures and videos to be sent from one user to another, and then “self-destruct” a few seconds after being opened. What you need to know: This app is very popular with students, and most believe that any pictures can be safely sent because they can’t be saved. However, there are numerous apps that allow these messages to be saved, and users can always take a screenshot of the picture to save it. It is important to stress this with students as part of a comprehensive online safety curriculum. In an interesting note, a similar app of the same concept, Burn Note, was discontinued as of a few months ago. It was like Snapchat, but with text messages that disappeared a few seconds after they were sent.
- Tumblr: This is another very popular app. It combines the social networking aspect with different genres of communication—blogging, writing, pictures, memes, and more—allowing content to be shared and searched for by users. What you need to know: The content shared on this site is public and can, at times, have adult content. It can be a productive place for sharing, but has seen controversy in the past, especially following the death of a teenager in 2012.
- WhatsApp: This messaging app works like texting, but connects to both the user’s location and address book. It can be an alternative place for messages to be sent that parents/teachers may know about. What you need to know: It is pretty straightforward, but it’s important to be aware of because of its popularity with younger users.
Because the landscape of social media and networking is always changing, this list will change over time. Also, due to the nature of teenagers, what is popular will always change—for example, MySpace was the popular site when I first started teaching! It is critical that teachers stay up to date with what students are using in order to help monitor students’ use and teach them how to stay safe.
These days, apps play a major role in how students interact with friends, family, and the outside world. Teachers can stress the importance of safe usage while engaging their students by using apps in the classroom. Applications students already feel familiar with can help draw them in while showing them how to get the most out of the technology.
Want to bring apps into your classroom but not sure where to start? Take a look at our collaboration and assessment app, MimioMobile. If you have MimioStudio you can try it with your class free for 30 days. Click here to learn more!