Investors, religious folk, politicians and parents all have one thing in common: they believe that children are the future. Whatever that eventually means for your funds, your local place of worship, the ballot box, or your kid hauler, you can expect today’s young’uns to have one immediate place of influence: your phone.
It can be tough to keep up with what’s popular with the next generation — much less, what’s popular in technology — but geezers (which in this case means anyone over 25) can take heart in the fact that much of what’s popular now is rooted in the past. We’re very much still figuring out where smartphones fit into our lives — but looking at what’s popular among darn kids provides a surprisingly clear idea of where things could go. And don’t fear becoming the parents who made Facebook uncool; there’s plenty for a discerning adult to enjoy here.
Yik Yak has already been the subject of wide scrutiny among parental advocacy groups and national publications. The reason, as is usual with anonymous online communities, is cyberbullying. Yik Yak is essentially a regionally based Twitter that adopts Reddit’s voting system and does not require handles. Like Facebook before it, Yik Yak was designed by college students for college students, but it trickled down the age groups, eventually reaching middle schools. The cyberbullying problem became so rampant that middle and high schools are now “geofenced” in such a way that Yik Yak is unusable within their walls. That’s a big help; while a user can view Yaks from anywhere (without being able to respond or vote), the point of Yik Yak is to see what people are saying around you, and naturally, bullying is centralized within schools.
With that hurdle more or less cleared, Yik Yak’s next challenge is to expand beyond the predominantly college-aged audience it initially set out to court. A Yik Yak feed can often be a wasteland of undergrad banality (“Whose in prof davis lecture?”); booty call-related brags, solicitations or advice (“Is bomb sex and pussy worth putting up with a crazy chick who’s down for you?”); sprinkles of existential terror (“My worst fear is eternal nothingness”); and the occasional hate speech. With its regional focus, Yik Yak has the potential to be something truly fascinating. The Internet at large is praised for both enabling users to connect with users from “around the world” and a stone’s throw away, but it often seems the former receives more attention. The app’s locality creates potential for community dialog and engagement, and its anonymity enables users to speak without fear of reprobation (beyond downvoting). But for now its growth feels a little stunted by the prolonged adolescence of its user base. Hopefully it can see that potential through, lest a successor with a similar ethos swoop in and finish the job. yikyakapp.com
Kik is remarkably simple. Remember AOL Instant Messenger? That’s essentially it, but on your phone. As reported by Buzzfeed, teens care more about online privacy than twenty-somethings. So: they choose screen names over Facebook profiles. (Privacy, here, doesn’t mean the same thing as data security, as Kik isn’t the most airtight messaging app out there.) Clearly we’re still in the process of negotiating the extent to which online avatars match up with our real-life counterparts, and we’re seeing it shift back and forth, as things often do: from the mid ’90s to the mid Aughts, online personae were defined strictly by a picture, messaging font, and how many acronyms were used per sentence; since then many have come to prefer some correlation with the real-world being behind the keyboard. Kik may signal a renewed demand for the former. kik.com
Five-O was designed by three high schoolers in Decatur, Georgia with the purpose of empowering locals to evaluate the performance of their local police. The original intent was to document both positive policing and police brutality; essentially it’s Yelp for your local precinct. Whatever your opinion on the touchy subject of modern-day police practices, the fact of the matter is that Five-O represents a possibly revolutionary new purpose for smart devices: democratic engagement among communities. For better or for worse, technology has revolutionized communication, consumerism and entertainment, and maybe it’s time for it to revolutionize democracy as well. These darn kids and their political engagement… Google Play Store (Currently being reviewed for iOS App Store.)
Everyone with a smartphone from first grade to freshman year seems to be playing Crossy Road. Chalk that up to its tried-and-true formula: it’s basically Frogger, but endless. (And you also play as a chicken, initially, and open up other characters as you progress. “Why did the chicken cross the road” — get the idea?) As smartphones grow more advanced, small indie game studios grow capable of experimenting with more distinctive graphical styles; and as Facebook declines in popularity among the youths, there’ll be fewer and fewer Farmvilles and Candy Crushes. Which is unquestionable cause for celebration. crossyroad.com
Thanks to the internet, everyone wants to prove that they know stuff. So the invasion of trivia night won’t stop at your favorite bar; it’ll also spread to your phone. Like Gen X-ers before them, today’s kids have unparalleled access to information — so it’s natural that Trivia Crack is a hit. Essentially a spin on Trivial Pursuit, Trivia Crack does one better than the last big trivia hit, Quiz Up, by throwing in a lives system, power ups and weapons. triviacrack.com