Popular Apps For Teens Your Child is Using

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Like adults, kids LOVE their apps.  According to a recent Pew Center report on teens and technology, 72% of all teens spend time with friends on social media.  Of these teens, 23% do it daily.  Texting is still the top activity for teens, but messaging apps are also popular with 42% of teens using apps such as Kik and WhatsApp…and 14% use these type of app every day.

Teens see the online world is an extension of themselves; there are plenty of places to express themselves and gain popularity through followers.  Going online gives teens a glimpse into others’ lives. In fact, 83% of teen social media users feel that social media helps them feel more connected to their friends lives.  Using social media apps also allows them to interact with people in ways they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in person.

Teens still use a number of apps their parents use online, like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, but these websites are losing popularity. Word of mouth is how apps grow, especially among teens.

And really, once you, as a parent, start to familiarize yourself with the latest popular apps among teens, you are already behind, as the next most popular apps have already enticed teens to sign up with them.


There are many sites/apps teens visit to socialize with others.  In this article, we’ll cover six of the most popular, though know, that popular apps surface and die nearly each day!  We’ll cover:

  1. Instagram
  2. Snapchat
  3. Facebook
  4. Twitter
  5. Kik Messenger
  6. WhatsApp

We’ll  explain each app, why teens love them, and what you as a parent needs to know about them.



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The popular Instagram app focuses on pictures, you know the saying…a picture paints a thousand words.  Instagram allows you to take a picture or choose one from your camera roll to edit, add filters, and even make a collage to share.   Adding filters can make an ordinary photo look stunning.   Instagramers can add commentary to their picture and viewers can “love” the pic and comment as well.

Important for Teens:

  • It makes them feel good to have many people “love” their photos.
  • They love when people comment on their pictures, it’s a compliment to them.
  • Their popularity and distribution of their pictures grows as they gain more followers
  • In order to get more “love” and followers, teens are likely to follow many people they don’t know in hopes of reciprocal following.

Important to Parents:

  • Rated: Teen
  • Remind teens that their pictures are public and they should never post pictures or comments with any identifying information about their city, school, full name, etc.
  • There is a setting in the privacy settings to make your child’s stream available only to friends.  This prevents strangers from following your teen (in hopes of getting followed back).  But keep in mind, their profile is still public.
  • In the privacy settings, you can select that your location is not shared as well as block certain followers.
  • It is possible that there are inappropriate comments or pictures posted.  Although Instagram can’t possible review everything posted, there is a way to flag inappropriate content for Instagram to review.
  • Know that there is an option for kids to message with up to 15 mutual friends at once.  If you’re monitoring his/her account and have the password, you may want to occasionally check these messages for inappropriate sharing.
  • Discuss the false illusion of gaining followers to look popular.
  • Discuss how many kids build their self-worth on who comments, follows, and “loves” their pictures and why this is a disillusion. 
  • Remember, your teen’s photo can be on Instagram even if your teen doesn’t have an account.  Friends often post pictures of their friends.
  • Find out more about Instagram with ConnectSafely.org’s “A Parents’ Guide to Instagram.”



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Snapchat is a popular messaging app where photos and messages sent to others self-destruct once they have been viewed.  Any videos or pictures teens take from within the app do not appear in their phone’s camera roll.  Teens can send their chats, videos, and pics, called “snaps,” to any of their friends who are on Snapchat.  400 million “snaps” are sent across Snapchat a day.

Teens can mark their profile as private between friends or public.  In addition to sending private messages to friends or groups of people, teens can add to their “My Story.”  My Story is a linear stream line up of various videos that a teen has taken.  They are visible to friends, or everyone if the teen has chosen in their profile to be public, and are available for viewing for 24 hours.  

So if a teen wants to document their day or just take fun snaps, My Story sews them together and another person can view them, one right after another.  There is not an option to choose a particular snap, you just watch one right after another…which can go on for a long time if a teen has made a lot of Stories to share.  

One very important thing to note with Snapchat, is that it includes the functionality to provide a flash on any selfies you take.  This is extremely handy if you’re in a dark area or perhaps a car.  A normal phone does not offer this feature, so teens tend to think of Snapshot when taking selfies in darker areas.

Big brands are on Snapshot.  They have created ad videos under the Discover section to appeal to teens.  Many have implemented a “tap and hold” feature where you can share the screenshot with your friends on Snapchat.  You should know that Snapchat also created Snapcash in conjunction with Square to “securely process” a teen’s payments, so some of the advertisers are giving teens the option to impulse buy on Snapchat as well.  Also, users can also send cash to one another, though I believe you need to be 18 to do this.

Important to Teens:

  • Fun way to share goofy or private pictures with the hopes of it not going viral.
  • Teens can view their friends’ Story to see what they are up to.
  • Pictures and videos taken within Snapchat are not visible in their phone’s Camera Roll.
  • The more things they do on Snapchat, the higher their score, the higher ranked they are.

Important to Parents:

  • There is no count of the number of friends one has, but the higher Snapchat score a user has, the more respected they are.
  • There are over 15 top brands represented on Snapchat, some offering impulse buying right from their ad
  • Teens mistakenly think…or hope…that their pictures to others privately will not be shared because they self-destruct.  But this isn’t the case, viewers can screenshot the pictures and share as they want.
  • Though you won’t be able to read their messages with friends, you can view your teen’s Story each day to see what kinds of videos s/he shares, but you need to be a friend of your teen to see them.
  • Go over the settings and permissions with your teen to ensure only friends can see their snaps and My Story.
  • Friends who have your teen in their address book will be able to find them on Snapchat.  Though you don’t need a phone number to add friends.
  • There is an option to block people in Settings.
  • Snaps can be recovered by Snapchat if subpoenaed by the government.
  • Here’s a great Snapchat Safety guide for parents you’ll appreciate from internetmatters.org.



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Facebook is still very popular among teens, though it’s beginning to die down.  Teens prefer to socialize with one another where it’s not so easy for parents to check in on them.  Although there is a age limit of 13+, Facebook doesn’t enforce it, as kids often lie about their age.  This popular site allows users to post comments, pictures, and videos as well as keep online photo albums.

Important to Teens:

  • It’s a great place to post about fun things a teen is doing.
  • Teens can keep updated on their friends activities.
  • It’s one of the top places teens go to find out what’s happening around them.
  • Teens can also use messaging and group messaging to chat with friends within Facebook.
  • It is easy to set up a secret group and add anyone to it to talk about particular subjects…or anything they want.
  • There are a number of public groups available on Facebook to join – on any and every subject.  

Important to Parents:

  • Rated:  Teen
  • Though your child keeps up a profile and commenting on Facebook, be aware that sh/e may be more active on newer platforms.
  • Teens can get depressed if it appears others are enjoying life and have access to parties more than they do. 
  • Teens tend to overshare to make their life look awesome.
  • Some teens will share very personal information or their emotions, which makes them vulnerable to bullies.
  • There is a stand alone Facebook messenger app that can be used for direct messaging one another.  It is free and does not add to one’s cellular texting plan.
  • Be sure to check out the different Facebook groups your teen joins to monitor the subject or safety of these groups.
  • Find out more in ikeepsafe.org’s  Parents Guide to Facebook.



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Twitter is known as a microblogging site where people post messages in 140 characters or less.  It’s a great way to give a status about yourself without having to write a lot.  These statuses are called “tweets.”  But twitter is more than personal statuses, you can also find out about the news, what’s going on with friends and favorite celebrities, the latest blog posts, advertisements, and just about everything.  Twitter users can also include pictures and videos.  Tweets with pictures and videos get the most likes and retweets (a retweet is when someone sends out your message to all of their followers).

Important for Teens:

  • Having a large following is a symbol of status on twitter.  Teens and adults alike follow others in hopes that they will be followed in return.
  • It’s a great way to follow favorite celebrities, often getting more personal info. like what the star had for lunch or how they feel about the latest football game.
  • Twitter is a fun way to feel a part of a larger community and provides links to all sorts of interesting information across the web.

Important for Parents:

  • Rated:  Mature 17+
  • Since the number of followers is an indication of how popular you are, or at least how far your tweet will carry, your teen will get plenty of strangers following them in hopes that your teen will follow them in return.
  • Once a tweet is sent out, it immediately goes to all a teen’s followers.  Although a teen can delete the tweet from their profile, it still remains in his/her followers twitter stream.  According to Qmee, 278,000 tweets are tweeted each minute.  So fortunately, the regretted tweet will disappear from the twitter stream quickly, but it is still searchable.
  • It is possible to keep tweets private, so that only followers can see your tweets, though this isn’t the norm for teens, and really, it takes a lot of the fun away.
  • Teens can send direct messages to any follower and they often direct message to each other.  Direct messages must be 140 characters or less, though they can send as many short direct messages as they’d like.
  • There are live streaming “actresses” who may befriend your teen and encourage him to watch her streams.
  • See education.com’s A Parent’s Guide to Twitter for more info.


Kik Messenger

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Kik Messenger allows teens to text for free.  Because it’s in an app, there are no texting limitations or fees, so teens can text as much and as often as they want.  Teens can import their contacts to find friends already on Kik or they can use the Kik app to scan a friend’s Kik code to connect on Kik as friends.

There is also a sharing feature so teens can share their kik code to others via texting, WhatsAp, Facebook, Instagram, email, twitter, and a tons of other apps.  Kik is not about getting a huge following, it’s just about texting.

Important to Teens:

  • There is no charge for their texting, so they can chat without worry of adding to their parents data plan.
  • Most parents don’t know about Kik, so their messages are more private than their texts.
  • Teens can arrange group chats to chat with more than one person at a time.

Important to Parents:

  • Rated:  Teen
  • Messages will not add to your texting plan, which is good.  But this also means that your teen could be texting with others and you would never know unless you knew to check their Kik messages.  Most parents have no idea what Kik even is, so teens can hide their conversations here.
  • Texting is between teens using handles or profiles rather than using phone numbers, so phone numbers do not appear on profiles.
  • The app is rated 17+ but there are no restrictions in place to prohibit younger people.
  • By clicking on a small globe picture, teens have access to promoted webpages, under the “Discover More Webpages” button.  In this area, teensare encouraged to visit webpages and download apps.  Some of these include:
    • Chat Now
    • Flirt!
    • Match & Chat
    • Wouldya?
    • Talk to Strangers!
    • Red Cup
    • Secret Admirer
    • Cute Guys
    • Daily Horoscope
    • Flirty Bird
    • and many more – 100 websites/apps are included
  • I checked out Talk to Strangers! and ended up talking to a male in India.  He gave me his Kik handle so we could chat more directly on Kik.  If your teen is lonely or bored, this app can bring some International fun to their day.  Talk to your teen about not giving out their handles and avoiding the websites and apps promoted by Kik.
  • There are sponsored chats by brands with “opportunities” to buy things, teens are encouraged to interact with them.
  • Check out more advice with  bewebsmart.com’s What is Kik and is Kik OK for Kids?



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WhatsApp is very popular among teens as it lets them send text messages, videos, photos, and audio messages to one another without fees or any limitations.  They can also make phone calls to one another and put up a status to let others know what you’re doing, such as “at school,” “sleeping,” “busy,” etc.

When you send messages to friends, you can see when they have read your messages and at what time.  You can also see when your contacts were last on WhatsApp by clicking on their profile.  In order to find out who of your friends are on WhatsApp, the app automatically goes through the contacts on your phone to let you know.

Important for Teens:

  • It’s more authentic than Kik since users are identified through their phone number.
  • Teens can send out group messages to friends.
  • Does not count towards their parents texting mobile plan.

Important for Parents:

  • Rated: Everyone
  • WhatsApp is another place where you should check if you are monitoring your teen’s texts.  If you didn’t know about the app, you wouldn’t know that a majority of your teen’s chatting could take place here.
  • Under the calls tab, teens can write a custom status or select one from the list.  Statuses include: Available, Busy, etc.  This information is public.
  • When I looked up the profile of my contacts who are on WhatsApp, I could see their phone number, which means other users can see your teen’s phone number as well if they have your child in their phone’s contacts.
  • Teens can send out broadcast messages to everyone who has their phone number in their address book.  This feature could be used by bullies or to spread the word fast about gossip.
  • WhatsApp says it’s for people 16+, but there is no way to verify that users are older than 16.  Many younger users are using WhatsApp.
  • WhatsApp show teens who of their contacts are on WhatsApp, but it shows who is not on WhatsApp, encouraging teens to add their friends by inviting them to download WhatsApp.
  • Phone calls made through WhatsApp do not show in your teen’s phone history log.  
  • Because WhatsApp uses the Internet for calls, you will not be charged for calls.  Note, calls can be across with world without charge, as long as the person being called also has WhatsApp.
  • For a helpful guide, see WhatsApp Safety: A How To Guide for Parents by internetmatters.org.


Social media is here to stay and our kids are finding out about new apps to download everyday.  But it’s not just sharing with others and gaining new followers, teens are meeting new friends too, as 64% of teens have met at least one new friend through their social media accounts.
Know the popular apps for teens so you can be involved with your child’s digital life.  Talking to your teens about what they post is important.  In the Pew Center study, 39% have felt the pressure to post content in hopes of getting lots of likes or comments.  It’s one of those daily peer pressures…as everyone else is doing it.  

If your teen is underage, restrict apps that are geared towards older users, as those apps often are springboards into other inappropriate apps or are loaded with inappropriate content by non-discerning users.

Above all, talk to your child about possible dangers and the long-lasting impact of the digital imprint they are leaving behind.


Need Help Finding the Right Phone?

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Looking for more great tips?  See our previous articles, Parental Advice Before Giving Your Child a Phone and Buying Your Tween’s first Phone.  Our Teens and Cellphones Primer also offers for more in-depth info. on phone etiquette, sexting, and more.


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