A new app that’s increasingly popular with young teens has them answering some very questionable questions. FriendO users invite friends to join and then quiz each other about their interests, beliefs, school, entertainment preferences, and more. According to statistics provided by the app developer, 84 percent of the 500,000 FriendO downloads in November were by junior highers.
Users can play with as many friends as they want at the same time, and because the point is to find out how well you know each other, there’s little worry about interacting with “creepy” older people. To see how the app works, watch this YouTube demonstration by an overly excited girl.
For the back-and-forth quizzes, players choose from a long list of categories such as What I Eat, My Sports, My Personality, Celebrities, Random, and Question of the Day. What troubles parents is the categories players can unlock as they keep using the app.
I recently downloaded FriendO, invited friends to join me, and navigated through tons of questions. After issuing three more invitations, the first bonus category I unlocked was Flirty. The app warned that some content ahead might be of an adult nature…even though FriendO is rated T for Teen. To gain access to the Flirty category, I had to click a button agreeing I was okay with adult content. Then I received access to questions such as:
- At what age did I have my first kiss? 12-14, 15-16, 17-20, 21+
- Would I go all-out for a date on Valentine’s Day or for my partner’s birthday?
- I like the feel of a beard tickling my face: yes or no
After inviting three more friends to join, the Star Wars category unlocked. (The bonus categories seem to unlock randomly, based on the experiences of my FriendO friends.) After I bugged yet another trio to join the game, the Dating category unlocked for me—with the same “adult stuff is coming your way” warning. Questions included:
- True or false: I’ve dated a sugar mama/daddy before.
- If a casual relationship needed me to marry them for citizenship I’d: ghost them, do it to be helpful, do it and expect a favor, volunteer someone else.
- The creepiest thing a date can do is: know my mother’s name, eat live spiders, crawl on all fours, know where I live.
The MSFK (Marry, Sex, Friend, or Kill) category asks users what action they’d take with certain celebrities. The Dirty category poses questions that are R-rated (and beyond):
- In bed, I am: aggressive, passive, a mix between aggressive and passive, passive aggressive
- If forced to, I’d rather watch a gross porno starring: my 7th-grade math teacher, my next-door neighbor
With these types of questions and the potential for cyberbullying, it’s little wonder parents don’t feel “friendly” toward FriendO.
The Power of Relationships
The surging popularity of FriendO underscores humanity’s basic need to belong. We all want assurance that others love, appreciate, know, and accept us. In one sense, FriendO provides that for kids. After all, it feels good when a BFF knows your favorite movie, song, or activity; that knowledge bolsters camaraderie. Unfortunately, FriendO ventures into unhealthy, inappropriate areas.
How can caring adults fill kids’ universal need to belong while keeping them safe in a connected environment? Here are two ideas:
- Make sure young people have a functioning self-esteem. Ironically, millions of kids—and adults—get their sense of self-esteem from anyone and everyone except self. (“Britney called me fat, so I must be fat,” or “Chad said I wasn’t a good player, so it must be true.”) Too often, young people’s self-esteem is based on what others say about them—or even what they think someone else believes about them! As adults, one of our biggest roles is to be an honest source of encouragement for kids. At the very least, that means providing verbal inspiration that not only lifts them up but also challenges them. If young people have a healthy, accurate view of themselves, they won’t depend on others to create a self-esteem for them. Regularly pour encouragement and ambition into the kids in your life.
- Provide fun, safe alternatives. To avoid FOMO (fear of missing out), kids will want to be part of something like FriendO. However, that edgy app isn’t the only option for friend-to-friend interaction. The free social-networking app tbh lets users anonymously answer questions about each other. It operates as simply as FriendO, but the harmless, thought-provoking questions (controlled by the developer) promote “love and positivity.” In fact, tbh co-founder Nikita Bier says one of his goals for the app is “improving the mental health of millions of teens.” So if your kids want to play a “How well do you know me?” game, point them toward tbh instead.
Young people are eager to know what others think of them. Make sure you have the best answers and share them with kids as often as possible.