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What Are Those Teenagers Doing With Those Phones?

By Stuart Boggess | published Friday, October 18, 2013 |
Thursday Review Contributor

Ever wonder what teenagers are doing with those phones and tablets all the time? I’m 15 years old; I’m a freshman this year, and I’m almost able to drive. So saying that I know a lot about what kids like, what they’re interested in, and what’s popular with today’s youth is definitely a legitimate statement. Today it seems that the younger generation is glued to their phones and other devices. Well, every kid has something they use to connect, whether that’s a phone, laptop, desktop computer, iPod, or tablet. Everyone my age has some device. And yes, it is true—we use them more than we should. To me it seems that everyday conversations are being replaced by various blobs of teens messing around on their devices.

But what exactly do we do on our phones? That’s an interesting question. Other than the obvious texting and instant messaging, today’s devices are capable of a lot. With cameras, videos, microphones, internet entertainment, gaming, and even fingerprinting with the newest iPhone model, the variety of apps (short for applications, or programs to run on the devices) is very large.

Some things teenagers feel a lot of pressure about are the number of followers or friends you have, how perfect their posts are, and how many likes those posts get. Some people misplace the popularity of online social media with real life popularity. The two often get mixed up. Some teens think they’re the best because of a number on their page. The number of followers is so important to some people that there are even businesses out there that will sell large blocks of fake followers to boost the numbers on your pages or posts. Teens buy followers and bask in the forever-fake popularity they have.

The most popular app in the world, as most people should know, is Facebook. It is used online, and it comes standard in Apple products. It is a social media hangout where people make accounts that represent themselves. You can keep your friends updated with everything you do in short bulletins, or posts. You can IM (short for instant message) and video chat others, you can play games, and it is also a great place to advertise a business. It seems to have everything anybody can want. And yes, teens do use this...a lot. I have a Facebook account, as do most of my friends. Of the young people I know, a large percentage use Facebook.

Another very well-used and well-known social media app that teens use is Instagram. Instagram is based on photos. You post photos to update your status or just to show something funny. Although there is no messaging within the app, comments and likes are often used to communicate within this app. I use this one myself too. In my opinion, some kids use it to popularize themselves, which is okay, but I appreciate when someone just uses it to post selfies (a term widely used, which just means a picture of just yourself, taken by you) and they don’t expect a million “likes” from their followers. I don’t post every day, and neither do most of the teens I know, but it is a very nice way to connect with friends.

A widely used counterpart to Instagram is Kik. Kik is an instant messaging app, but it is not social media; it is only used to connect with specific people. Kik has what Instagram does not have: no video calling, but picture messages and texts are used. This app is special because you do not have to pay monthly, and you don’t need a phone number. These two things can be enormous distractions for teens, as you may imagine. All you need is an email and an Internet connection. And yes, I also have a Kik account.

Another great app which kids and teens use is the one and only Snapchat. It is one of a kind. It is kind of like a combination of Kik and Instagram, with fewer features. Snapchat is quick and easy. You send only a picture of yourself and very, very short text. And after over an hour of “snapchatting” someone, you have a conversation going, one sentence at a time. It is a more up-close-and-personal app. You send a picture of yourself right there, right then. No staging, no preparations, just you sitting on the couch or hanging out at home. This one requires more focused attention, and (here’s the kicker) you can only view the message for 10 seconds once you open it. Neither your device nor the server saves your messages from the past for you—or your parents—to view later. It is very nearly as popular as Instagram, and is widely used by young people in the U.S. And of course I also have Snapchat.

A quite different app that teens use is not about selfies, or posts, or how many followers or friends you have. This unique app doesn’t require you to post anything, because posting would mean having to think and be creative. This app is called iFunny. It is a center for everything that makes you laugh, from comic strips to memes (photos with captions which are shared widely on the internet), to funny pictures. Every day, twice a day, 20 of the best of the best iFunny submissions are chosen and “featured.” Featured submissions can be viewed with the click of an icon. This app brings laughter to the dark world of high school, but it’s not just for kids—adults would like it just as much. It does not require effort to have fun on this app, and that is why most people just sit and watch the features instead of posting a funny idea. I enjoy seeing the 40 features per day, and people can tune in at the end of the day, or in one long session at the end of the week. The option of not having to post is something different and new in this app, you can connect, yet not be pressured to post anything. It’s an interesting combination to me.

The next app I want to tell you about is, in my opinion, useless, but you’ve heard of it. Celebrities often use this app. It’s the unfabulous-yet-somehow-popular “Twitter.” Here, small posts are used to entertain or keep your followers updated. Although people you personally know don’t usually post, this app specializes in keeping you updated on your favorite celebrity’s life. Anyway, that’s what it’s supposed to be used for. Most people my age don’t bother with Twitter, but some, like me, have an account just to say they have an account. That’s what it looks like to me. But that’s just my opinion.

Finally, there is the world of “gaming apps.” There are too many apps to even begin listing them all because there are so many—thousands, literally. On this topic, it is not about everyone having one specific app. It is about playing a game you like. And even in my age group, that differs from person to person. A large percentage of the apps in the app store are games. The variety is huge, with the genres available including puzzle games, word games, action, adventure, board games, arcade, card games, casino, dice, educational, family, music, racing, roleplaying, simulation, sports, strategy, and trivia. There are so many great games that people use. Here is a short list of some fun games, which are fun and popular with teens my age.



Temple Run

Angry Birds

Jetpack Joyride

Fruit Ninja

4pics 1word

Flow Lines

Fall Down

Cut the Rope

There is in no practical way to create a comprehensive list of today’s most popular games. I play games; most teens do in their free time. The games are often challenging, and fun distractions.

Teens all have their own likes and dislikes, but these apps are the most used among my own circle of friends. Some teens may have different preferences than these. But as a teen, these are the apps that are especially useful, fun, and worthwhile. To us these apps take up a lot of free time, but we love using them.