It would seem that there will be no shortage of strange new apps to talk about. This latest inductee into the messaging app hall of fame puts a strange twist on the world of photo messaging.
Fling, which launched to mixed reviews and a top 5 spot in the App Store in mid-June, is the latest in the trend of random messaging. Like I mentioned, there’s a twist.
At first glance, I thought Fling was just another Snapchat. I was both right and wrong.
The app functions as a bit of a virtual message in a bottle. Users create content (text, picture or video) and share them.
The content is “flung” around the world to up to 50 random users. The recipients can view the content and can choose to engage the originator in chat or ignore the content entirely. Receipts can view the originator’s username and general location from which the fling was flung. The content creator can watch their message fly around the world.
It would seem that the overall popularity of the app is coming and going. When it launched in mid-June the app shot to the top of the charts. Since then it has dropped off the top 100 list despite over 250 million “flings”. Part of the reason for the decline might be the lack of availability on the Android platform (though its creators promise that it’s in the works).
Here are some key points for parents on the app:
Similar to popular apps like Snapchat and Kik Messenger, Fling functions on usernames. Normally this is enough to keep users safe and free from unwanted messages. Since Fling randomly sends out your content to random people, you are willingly handing off this information to strangers.
As I mentioned when a fling is flung, recipients receive the originators username and general location. An early bug reveal exact locations but this has since been corrected and limits this to the country of origin.
How much information revealed is up to the users. Once chat has been engaged, users can give out personal information like phone numbers, other app usernames and exact locations.
Privacy is in the eye of the beholder it would seem in the case of this app. I would recommend for users, selecting a different username from your norm (using the same username across apps and sites is generally NOT recommended).
10 minutes. That’s how long I was a member of the app before I received sexually explicit content from a complete stranger. Of the five replies to my inaugural fling (a picture of my new kitten) one of them was a picture of a man’s genitals. While one would hope that their teen is smart enough to avoid such dangers but mistakes do happen. Making sure that your kids understand the consequences of sexting both the legal and non-legal ramifications. It’s important to take the time to think before you make a mistake that could affect you now or in the future. This content is permanent and won’t be going away any time soon. The added risk is that this content is being sent to complete strangers all over the world.
Like a good chunk of messaging apps, there are no restrictions on content being created or sent so the chances of your child simply receiving unwanted explicit messages are great. The app store even warns against Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes, Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity, Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References, Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor.
Users are able to report unsavory content when it’s been received. Fling has access to each of the messages sent and will investigate and suspend users as it deems necessary.
Why Parents Should Be Concerned About Fling
Right away the app reminds me of how I felt about Omegle. You are sharing with complete strangers around the world. This, right away, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t like the idea of sharing with users unknown around the world and parents should feel the same.
The app is rated 13+ meaning that, like most apps, users must be at least 13 years of age to download the app. Make sure for your younger kids that you have restrictions in place for the app store and Google Play.
Additionally, use this opportunity to have that regular check-in with your kids about the apps they are using and the behavior you expect from them. Help them understand your feelings about sharing and chatting with strangers and what some of the ramifications of those actions can be.
Remind them about sharing too much information and how even a picture can reveal too much sometimes!
It’s important to remember that it’s not technology that’s causing problems, it’s how we are using it!
Until next time!
Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com
You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.