Popular apps among teens, college students have parents worried - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Popular apps among teens, college students have parents worried

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Experts say teens and college students are using more apps and engaging in more social media than their parents might realize.

Most people are familiar with Facebook and Twitter, even Instagram and Snapchat. Apps such as Ask.fm and Tinder may be popular with young people, but many parents are in the dark.

Tinder is an app for finding people in your proximity, deciding if you find them attractive and then -- only if they like your looks, too -- connecting.

"I don't know if that's ever been successfully used by anyone," said Loras College senior Sean Brennan. "Definitely probably not in Dubuque. Maybe in larger cities with more dense populations."

He is in a communication research course at Loras College with fellow Media Studies majors. In the class, he and other students are exploring topics that include how social media impact relationships.

"We've kind of discovered a lot of negatives with it," Brennan said, adding some people, "rely on...some of the social media things in order to interact with people, as opposed to building relationships face-to-face and actually feeling comfortable in a conversation with people."

Students in the class and on Loras College agree that social media sites and apps aren't inherently bad; it all depends on how you use them.

That's how Loras senior Thomas Carr sees it.

"I don't have any really high school friends here, so as I came to a completely new environment I was still able to connect on a daily basis with friends from back home," he said.

College students, however, aren't the only ones online.

Dubuque Senior High School counselor Tischa Busch said a website and app called Ask.fm can lead to bullying and sexually explicit conversations.

"It's particularly, in my opinion, dangerous because it's anonymous," Busch said. "Kids and adults - anybody - can put anything out there, ask any question they want, anonymously, and you don't even know who's asking you a question.

She added, however, that people who field questions, "have the responsibility to not answer."

Even on sites such as Facebook, where a person's name is attached to their account, "you see a lot of the bullying and the sexual innuendos and things like that because, again, you're not talking face-to-face with someone."

When it comes to high schoolers, Busch recommends parents don't shy away from getting into their kids' business, "making sure they're not putting personal information that they could be tracked by people who, unfortunately, are not good people and are using the Internet to stalk kids," she said.

As Carr pointed out, however, connecting with people through a computer can also be a great thing.

"Obviously, some people are going to use that as something to hide behind, but, at the same time, let's say you have a hobby that maybe your friends wouldn't like. You could follow it online and not be an outcast," Carr said. "You'd actually be included in that group."

Busch recommends parents keep as up-to-date as possible on apps and social media sites popular with teens, by both doing research and asking their kids about the sites and apps they use.

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