Info for parents about the TBH app, the latest viral sensation among teens

Info for parents about the TBH app, the latest viral sensation among teens

The TBH app is currently the No. 1 free download on iTunes and it's hugely popular with teenagers. To be doing that well on the iTunes charts means a lot of teens are downloading this app. TBH just launched in August, so it's safe to say it's spreading like wildfire.

"TBH" stands for "To be honest." Here's what parents need to know about TBH:

* It's popularity is notable in part because it is not yet available in all states.

Right now, users must be in New York  Indiana, Florida, Texas, Georgia, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Washington. When I tried to join from Illinois, I was told I could join the waitlist if you enable notifications.

BuzzFeed reports that there isn't an exact time frame for when TBH will be available elsewhere, explaining, "Apparently because it blew up so fast (2 million users signed up in the last six weeks), they just don’t have enough server bandwidth and tech support to expand any faster right now." Their writer was able to get around the location limitations.

* Users on TBH are anonymous.

That always makes me nervous when it comes to apps. Anonymity makes it easy to say awful things. And the name TBH brings to mind "burn books" and similar expressions of honesty popular at sleepover that typically leave someone in tears.

But there's a big BUT here.

* TBH users may only say positive things about other users.

This is an app that's about being nice. It's "a limitation that, believe it or not, only seems to make the app more popular," according to NYMag.com.

Of course, kids can be cruel and I suspect that there are ways to make this hurtful, or there's always the risk of feelings being hurt on social media.

* Here's how it works: What parents should know about the TBH App

The app connects to a user's contacts. Then it asks questions about people, but they're all positive, such as "Who always knows what to say?" or "World's best party planner" or "The person I relate to most is" or "Who makes you laugh the hardest?" The user is given four possible options of people from their contacts and selects an answer to the question. Don't like a question? Just hit skip.

When a user's name is selected as an answer, they are notified of the selection and the gender the person who selected, but not their name.

It's a bit of a game, with users earning "gems"  when they are selected. You may only take a certain number of polls at a time and must wait after reaching your limit, according to Mashable.

That all seems positive.

* It's rated 12+ in the App Store for "Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes; Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor; Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence." I haven't seen or read anything the sends up alarm bells for me, but I also haven't been able to spend much on it given that I can't download it here in the Land of Lincoln.

* It's not perfect. (Hint: No app, or user, is.) There are privacy and other concerns.

"The rise of tbh could reduce parents’ worries about cyberbullying, though it doesn’t address a deeper problem: Its 'gamified' structure still feeds the distraction and sense of disconnection that are causing epidemic levels of depression and isolation among today’s smartphone-addicted teens," says  Fortune.

Common Sense Media gives it only three stars, citing privacy concerns about its data collection and the fact that adults could pose as kids pretty easily. Their conclusion: "tbh is certainly one of the tamest anonymous apps, but parents may still want to have a conversation with teens about how their friends are using it, the data it collects, and how to use it for friendship and not fodder for negativity."

* Midnight Labs, a small company in Oakland, CA, is behind the TBH app and the motivation was "to make something that would make people feel good," according to BuzzFeed. They appear to be on to something with making kindness a key part of their platform. Sarahah, which was popular this summer, was plagued by problems with bullying.

* "tbh" is also a pretty common phrase that teens use on Instagram and is used say nice thing about friends, so even if your kids don't have or can't access the app, there are other opportunities to pay some compliments (besides those delivered face-to-face, of course. They still do that, right?)

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Filed under: Parenting, Technology

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