We all have our favorite social media apps. According to the 2015 Pew Center report on teens and technology, 72% of all teens spend time with friends on social media. Of these teens, 23% do it daily. Texting is still the top activity for teens, but messaging apps are also popular with 42% of teens using apps such as Kik and WhatsApp and 14% use these types of app every day.
Since Teen Tech Week will be celebrated March 6-12, I asked some of the youth services librarians in my area what apps the teens in their libraries are currently obsessed with. I know their tastes change pretty quickly so what’s popular now may not be popular in six months. Therefore, I was a bit surprised to find that they are using a lot of the same apps that have been popular for a while now but I also learned about some new ones too.
In my request from my colleagues, I didn’t specify what kind of app suggestions I wanted so, unsurprisingly, more of the answers fell into the texting or micro-blogging category, when what I really wanted was gaming apps. I admit I haven’t spent as much time as I probably should playing gaming apps so, a number of these were new to me, although they may not be to you.
The most frequently mentioned gaming app that seems to be all the rage right now is Stop. It’s a fun categories word game app you can play against others. You randomly select a letter to start and type a word for each of the 5 different categories that start with that letter. The player that gets most correct words wins. There are categories for Star Wars, superheroes and many others.
A number of librarians said that they and their teens were obsessed with Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector, the Japanese cat collecting game. The game’s very simple. The goal is to leave food and toys in your virtual backyard to attract cats – over 40 of them – all with their own unique looks and personality. Most of the cats are ordinary cats, but there are some rare cats too, but in order to get them to come, you need to lure them with special items. I first saw a colleague playing it last year and, although I prefer dogs to cats, it looked so adorable that I began playing it too. It’s quite addictive. In Japan they’ve had live-action recreations of the game that you can watch on YouTube.
Another popular Japanese game is the free Alpaca Evolution app. I’ve never played it but it sounds fun, although very strange. You are an alpaca that mutates and consumes other alpacas. As you consume other alpacas you evolve and mutate into something stronger and stranger. Every time you evolve you get a new description of your new form. It doesn’t require a lot of skill, but it’s a lot of fun seeing what disturbing alpaca monstrosity you evolve into next. An in-game encyclopedia explains each of your new forms in bizarre detail, rating your strength and giving you a bunch of useless vital statistics.
Teens seem to love solving math puzzles as well. Some of the most popular are:
- 2048 is a free puzzle game app for a single-player who must try to slide numbered tiles on a grid to combine them and create a tile with the number 2048.
- 1010! is an engaging free puzzle game app for a single player with a simple but distinctive gameplay. It gets its name from its 10×10 grid and is reminiscent of Tetris.
Even though the Temple Run app isn’t new, and isn’t free, the teens are still addicted to it. You’ve stolen the cursed idol from the temple, and now you have to run for your life to escape the Evil Demon Monkeys close on your heels. You’ll be testing your reflexes as you race down ancient temple walls and along sheer cliffs. Swipe to turn, jump and slide to avoid obstacles, collect coins and buy power ups, unlock new characters, and see how far you can run. You can compete against other players and are ranked according to how well you’ve done.
Another older, but still popular app is The Room, that costs .99 to download. It’s a physical puzzler, wrapped in a mystery game, inside a beautifully tactile 3D world. You have a beautifully ornate box with levers, dials and locks and keys. The object is to unlock them as you’re led deeper inside. You begin by putting together an eyepiece that helps you to solve the many puzzles found within.
BuzzFeed’s app advertises that it has it all: “the news you want now, the stories and quizzes that will be buzzing on the social networks tomorrow, and the recipes and life tips you didn’t know you needed.” So of course it’s going to be popular with teens. I personally love the quizzes. An example of one of them is “We Know Your Favorite Animal Based On Your Favorite Actor” (I chose Chris Hemsworth so my favorite animal is a dog. Perfect!) Why do I like doing these quizzes? Maybe it’s a way to find out about myself and let others know about what I like without revealing too much about myself. These quizzes can be great ice-breakers if you find yourself having to interact with people you don’t know.
The most popular apps that teens in libraries were using in my informal survey was, not surprisingly, Instagram. The fact that they rely on getting the most likes for the photos or 15-second-videos they take, edit and share, make it a really popular way to validate their status. I’m not on Instagram myself, but I’m going to try it because I have used Vine, and only having 6 seconds to create a video is really hard for me. Teens don’t have any problems with the shorter time limit, though.
Facebook might not be as popular with teens these days, but they are using the Messenger function for instant messaging, sharing photos, videos, audio recordings and for group chats, according to the teen librarians.
Snapchat was reported to be equally as popular as Instagram. I get why it would be really popular since any text, or photos or videos you post disappears after a few seconds so teens probably think what they’re sharing isn’t permanent. But, I doubt that anything posted is ever really gone.
The teen librarians said another popular app being used by teens was ooVoo. I can understand why because it’s a free video, voice, and messaging app. You can chat for free with up to 12 other users at the same time. I doubt that teens are working on projects together using it, but it might be a good way to have a small book club discussion, especially since you can only communicate with those you’ve approved first.
Another texting app that I wasn’t too familiar with is Kik Messenger. I know it’s popular because the basic features are free, and doesn’t have any message or character limits. I’d read about it but I’ve been hearing it mentioned a lot more recently in several TV news stories involving a VA girl’s murder and a MD child pornography case. We all know that there are security risks involved when using these apps and we all, especially teens, need to remember this.
I find myself spending hours I never intend to watching YouTube videos, and it seems teens do too. I don’t stay up to watch James Cordon’s late late night show but I do watch his carpool karaoke videos on YouTube. You can find out something about anything on it. Spotify is also still popular with teens too.
These are just some of the apps that I was told were the most popular right now with teens. What are some other ones that you know teens are playing? I’d love to know.
For program ideas for Teen Tech Week, check out this post at the YALSAblog.
— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard and listening to Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar