It “Swipes” Good Sense from Our Kids
Unfortunately parents have a new app to worry about. It is called “Swipe” and was created by Swipe Labs. Although the name refers to the way the manner in which users navigate through the app, it also has the ability to swipe the good sense and judgment with which we are raising our children.
As Swipe’s developers explain “With Swipe we wanted to build something fun that made conversations more like running into friends in real life — wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. When you get into the app, you’ll see a stack of photos & videos posted by your friends.”
A Swipe user can take pictures and instantly post them to their friends anonymously. The recipient of the picture can do three things (all involve swiping).
- If the picture doesn’t interest the recipient, he/she swipes left to delete.
- If the recipient thinks it’s cool, he/she swipes right to let the poster know the photo was liked.
- If the recipient wants to reply, he/she just taps the post to write a message, and swipes upwards. When the poster gets the reply, he/she can send one back to the recipient and reveal his/her identity. Replies can go back and forth until someone gets bored — and just swipes it away.
Although this appears to be an innocent way to share pictures among friends, the app’s slogan signals the opportunity for bad behavior—“See the photos & videos your friends won’t post on Facebook.”
There are a several issues that parents need to be aware of concerning kids’ use of Swipe:
- Underhanded Means of Spreading: When the app is downloaded, the user agrees to a lot of fine print which includes permission for Swipe to access all contacts stored on the child’s device. The app then sends communication (often via text) to all of these contacts inviting those people to download Swipe via a message like “Sammy Sailor is inviting you to join Swipe” with a link to a download site. The user, in this case, Sammy Sailor, is not even aware that the message is being sent.
- Anonymous online behavior is dangerous: Psychologist John Suler has described the tendency for people to say and do things online that they never would say/do in person as the online disinhibition effect . This effect becomes even more pronounced with adolescents whose neurological ability to use good judgment is not fully developed. In short, given the ability to post pictures without fear of accountability or reprisal, teens will often post dangerous, harmful or inappropriate pictures. The ability to post anonymous pictures is one of the central features of Swipe making it a dangerous app in the hands of our kids.
- Listen to the app’s own rating: The rating Apple has given this app tells you the potential dangers inherent in its use. (By the way, Swipe is currently only available for iPhone/iPad/iTouch users but the developer promises an Android version soon). Swipe is rated 12+ due to the fact that users can encounter “Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References; Sexual Content and Nudity; Profanity or Crude Humor; and Mature/Suggestive Themes”. Is this really the app you want your kids using?
So What Do You Do Next?
Now that you know something about Swipe, it will be important to discuss the app with your child.
- Has she/he downloaded it already?
- What kinds of pictures are friends sharing?
- What kinds of pictures is your child sharing?
- What will she/he do if an inappropriate photo is shared with her/him?
- What will she/he do if invited to download Swipe by a friend?
- Should Swipe be allowed onto his/her device in the first place?
- Once an image is shared via Swipe it is forever going to exist in the virtual world. A “friend” can screenshot whatever you post and distribute it to whom he wants.
Remember that inappropriate online behavior can become a permanent part of your child’s “digital footprint” and follow him/her throughout the future. Also certain online behaviors can violate school rules and state/federal laws. Teens often think that their online behaviors have no accountability and are shocked to find they could be subject to school punishments and even criminal charges.