Collaboration and Communication Apps Review
Corey F. Scott
This report will involve the student investigating and gaining experience in the use of two collaborative/communication apps for personal, pedagogical, and/or professional purposes providing evidence of engagement with at least two other individuals.
App # 1 - Hangouts
Hangouts is the first application chosen as it is a free application available for use through Google. The app was chosen to communicate with my students and staff from the National Engineering League. Every NEL team member has a Google and Gmail account and this has made Hangouts compatible with all pre-existing team members. The Hangouts application allow for group chats with up to 150 people and incorporates photos, videos, animated GIFS, and emojis into the chats. Hangouts helps people stay in touch via free video calls, voice calls, or group chats.
Evidence of Engagement
App # 2 - MS Teams
Microsoft Teams is a popular business communication application and platform developed as part of the Microsoft 365 family of software products. As a federal government employee, I use MS Teams to conduct weekly team meetings to communicate hot topics amongst my engineering and technical pricing support team. Teams offers workspace chat and videoconferencing. It also offers file storage, and application integration. Ultimately, MS Teams offers a user friendly experience that allows team members to communicate and collaborate virtually despite having to social distance and telework away from the office.
Evidence of Engagement:
Listed below are the apps reviewed and a minor discussion about the specifics of each app detailed.
App # 1- Instagram
Instagram is an app created in 2010 with the purpose of connecting people through short videos, pictures, and messages. The app is a subdivision of the social media giant, Facebook. The videos and pictures are then shared with other individuals also known as followers. Followers have access to view the shared contents or stories for a limited 24-hour period before they expire. The app keeps a visual log of the number of followers for each account holder. Instagram proposes the benefit of providing the capabilities to also utilize direct and permanent message sharing. This creates a log of the messages that can be retrieved.
Some of the common warnings are disclosed on the account set up page. Basic warnings include to not share account login and password. Like most online accounts, users must be aware of the possibility of unauthorized usage also known as hacking (Badillo-Urquiola, 2020). The use of Instagram may subject participants to inappropriate postings such as nudity and violent behaviors. These forms of content pose a serious problem for children if they are followers of the offender. Children can also be subjected to being contacted by people they do not know. The use of apps like Instagram by pedophiles has become a serious concern of parents and law enforcement (Cooke, 2017). This can also be a source of bullying for children and teens. Bullies can use the app to post hurtful content knowing it should only appear temporarily, so they feel more brazen to commit such acts.
There are numerous safeguards that can be imposed for usage of Instagram. The first protection measure is for parents and teachers to discuss the usage boundaries with the child. There should be clear communication of what is and is not acceptable behavior when utilizing the app” (Badillo-Urquida, 2020). Instagram also provides safety use tips for parents on its Help Center Privacy and Safety page of its website. Hacking into accounts can happen on the user’s side of the device as well as over the internet. It is important to not share devices, especially when apps have not been logged out.
WhatsApp is a communication app that was launch in 2009 by Facebook. The technology was developed to allow the user to send and receive messages, pictures, and videos free of cost. One special feature is that it can be use both on desktop and on mobile devices and each person does not have to use the same brand of device. Another feature of the app is that it saves users money in comparison to the rates and fees that they would have to pay if they used their mobile network. The app can be accessed by downloading for free in the app store or the WhatsApp website. The app also has group chat capabilities which could be useful for parent-teacher conferencing.
WhatsApp is viewed as one of the safest communications apps, however it does pose some risks that are worthy of mentioning (Dawson, 2017). Although the app is free, a few minutes of use can eat away at a significant number of gigabytes. Regular use for group collaborations that take more time may not be economically friendly. This can be very expensive if used by unsupervised children. WhatsApp, like most technological apps and devices, is susceptible to virus and malware. Teachers, parents, and young students should not accept suspicious invitations to upgrade the app. The malware causes damage to the device even though there is no personal data to retrieve unless it was shared in the messages.
WhatsApp was developed with several safeguards in minds for its users. One of the most significant safeguards is that messages are encrypted so only the sender and recipient can view them. Secondly, only your approved contacts have access to send messages to you. The most effective safety component of the application is that no personal information is required for setup in the form of an account (Murphy, 2018). This lessens the risk of private information being retrieved if an unauthorized person were to gain access to your device. The lack of required personal information is a great feature for young users who often lose or misplace phones and tablets.
App #3- Snapchat
Snapchat is a communication app that was developed in 2011 by students at Stanford University. The glorified feature of Snapchat is the capability of setting messages, pictures, and videos to only appear for a short set amount of time. The short messages and videos are called snaps because of the short time of exposure. Young children are attracted to the app because of the ability to add artsy filters and digital stickers to their pictures and videos. The app provides location of the sender to their followers. After a snap has been viewed it disappears from the device and server.
There are several reasons for parents and teachers to be concerned about the use of Snapchat by young children. Snapchat, like all technology, has some features that are questionable in regards to safety (Nadelson, 2016). The star feature of having messages and videos deleted quickly poses many potential threats. It is difficult to utilize any type of monitoring method of the content and to retrieve past content. Images and context are gone before adults have the opportunity to even realize the child may be viewing something inappropriate. Children can be quickly exposed to adult images and language. The app can also give young impressionable children a dangerous sense of excitement and boldness. Young children will sometimes say and do things in the messages and videos that they would not normally do. They understand that the messages disappear after a short time and they assume their actions are harmless. However, recipients with malicious intentions can screenshot those images and use them for explicit purposes. The location indicator the major threat to young users. It is this feature that can be used by child predators to gain physical contact with the user.
In recent years, developers of Snapchat along with other independent tech companies have created new safeguards. One safety feature is that users are now alerted if a recipient takes a screen shot of a video or message. There are still ways to override the notification but it is not effective on every device brand. There is also the development of parental control apps that when downloaded on the child’s device can assist with monitoring Snapchat contacts and messaging. Another safeguard is for parents and teachers to set rules of usage. The rules for each young user may need to be specific to their maturity level and what the parents feel is appropriate (Park, 2016). Rules such as time of use, parental knowledge of contact list, and consequences and dangers should be discussed before use of the app.
App# 4 Blendr
Blendr is an app that was first developed in 2011. The main focus of the app is to serve as a way for single individuals to communicate and socialize with the intentions of finding a date. The app has been marketed as more user friendly for those wanting to meet up right away. This due to one of key features of the app pairing people within the same geological location or certain proximity. Unlike most other dating sites that promote connecting people for relationships, Blendr out right states its users connect for one-night stands.
The Blendr app is considered a hook-up app due to it being for the primary purpose of casual dating and one-night stands (Shernoff, 2017). There have been warnings issued by The National Crime Agency that users of such apps be responsible and sure that the people they meet are over the age of consent. This app like many others provides the location of the user. Locations specifics can be dangerous if some of the users have mal intent and are using it to bait potential victims. Parents and teachers have to be mindful that young children are smart enough to set up accounts on Blendr but may not be mature enough to realize the dangers. Some teens may also utilize the app under peer pressure to gain social acceptance and prove they are adults.
The use of the Blendr app should be used with caution by all users of any age and gender (Snape, 2016). It is important that teachers and parents establish rules and expectations for use of communication apps by children and teens. Young adults18 years of age and slightly over are especially vulnerable. Safeguards for meeting people in person should be established and communicated to someone that the user knows well and already has a personal relationship with. Before meeting anyone the user should let that designed friend know the meet up location and name and description of the person, they are meeting. They should also initially meet in public places so that there are witnesses of the two together.
App # 5 - Hangouts
Hangouts is the first application chosen as it is a free application available for use through Google. Hangouts helps people stay in touch via free video calls, voice calls, or group chats.
The Hangouts application allow for group chats with up to 150 people and incorporates photos, videos, animated GIFS, and emojis into the chats. The app allows the users to turn any conversation into a free call with a limit of up to 10 contacts. Hangouts can be downloaded onto Android, iOS, and the web. It also has the capability to sync chats across all of your devices.
The use of the Google Hangouts app can be convenient, however it can also open the user up to several risks (Son, 2019). The app has been known to be a frequently used app in which scammers manipulate other users. They often gain their trust through a false sense of friendship and convince them to supply money to them. Parents and teachers can utilize the app for collaborations regarding student progress as well as online teaching. Use of the by young students should be monitored. Google Hangouts can present potential inappropriate communications between young children or teenager with users who have mal intentions (Ritzhaupt, 2018).
The Google Hangout app does attempt to keep its users safe by utilizing encryption of conversations. The messages and conversation transmitted on the app are only able to be viewed by those inside of that particular chat. Parents and teachers can implement safety measures when using Google Hangout. Guidance and rules should be set regarding who young children communicate with while using the app. Approved contacts can be preset within the app by parents or teachers that are safe for the child. The Google Hangouts webpage provides suggestions of safe practices on its terms of services tab.
Link to Published Findings on The National Engineering League’s Website:
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