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WhatsApp and other mobile messaging apps parents should know about

DENVER — The recent purchase of WhatsApp by Facebook for an astounding $19 Billion has a lot of people scratching their heads.  What’s What’s App?

Simply put, WhatsApp is a messaging app.  You can send text messages, pictures and videos to your friends on a smartphone, tablet or even an iPod.  It uses data instead of text messages so it doesn’t suck up the text messaging limits on your cell plan and there are no charges for international messages.  It’s popular with younger people and international users.  So much so that Facebook thought it was worth $19B!

“There’s lots of apps that do this but WhatsApp has just become very popular very fast,” explained Amy Hasinoff, an assistant professor at University of Colorado Denver who studies New Media.

Parents who are trying to keep tabs on their kids may want to know about these apps.  Hasinoff said it shouldn’t change typical parenting strategies because it’s just another way of doing what most kids are already doing – communicating.

Others say parents need to know more.  Becca Ludlum is a technology writer and blogger.  She has 2 boys, 9 and 13, and is in the thick of the struggle between freedom and parenting.

Ludlum said the digital age is uncharted territory for most parents, “I have nothing to go off of, I can’t say, my parents did this.”

She created the info-graphic below to help parents know what app icons to look for on their tween or teen’s smartphone.

FeaturedAppsTeens

She said that many kids are messaging with these new apps and not using text messages.  She thinks parents need to stay one step ahead of the game and know where to look to keep tabs on their kids.

“You’re not invading their privacy, you’re being a parent!  Totally worth all the work.  It’s your kid!  You want to know what they’re doing,” added Ludlum.

Hasinoff doesn’t disagree but stresses that technology isn’t the problem.

“The point isn’t the technology it’s what they’re saying and the technology can change how they interact a little bit but those core values of respecting their friends and classmates don’t really change,” said Hasinoff.

In the end, each parent will have to weigh the balance between privacy and parenting.

Read Ludlum’s blog about these chatting apps online at mycrazygoodlife.com