The iPhone application Yobongo just launched on Monday and allows for realtime chat with other people in a user’s particular vicinity at any given time. Created by Caleb Easton, Yobongo essentially provides the ability to join chat rooms through one’s phone. You can see what others are talking about and join the conversation of your choice, and because it’s a mobile device, Easton says, “We view it as a communication system rather than a social network.” But it still has some stigmas attached, as well as the ever-present possibility of oversharing.
In the past, chat rooms were often considered “sketchy,” as anyone can join them and then talk to people they’ve never met in real life. The standard chat room question – a/s/l – requests the age, sex, and location of other participants in the room and the common follow-up question of “picture?” further adds to the sketchiness aspect. While of course some chat rooms that focus on particular interests and discussions can foster a constructive environment amongst users, chat rooms in general definitely contribute to the list of online dangers for kids that parents should pay special attention to.
Even though Yobongo recognizes these stigmas and is aiming to be, as Easton said, an entirely new kind of communication system, this is something that parents in particular need to monitor. While you can constantly remind your kids not to overshare and reveal too much personal info online, the whole premise behind this app is that you only talk to people in your general vicinity. Yobongo also allows users to establish one-on-one connections outside of the general conversation of the “room,” which can lead to a more personal and revealing conversation. Yobongo states on its site that “we magically connect you to the conversation that’s happening around you.” Talk to your kids about this application, and any online chat rooms that they are interested in because while it may be fun to “magically connect” with other people, there are still risks and online dangers that kids need to be made aware of.
Do you think your kids will be interested in this kind of application? How will you talk to them about it?