Smart Apps For Android: REVIEW: BeSeen - teach cyber safety to pre-teens (best free educational Android kids apps)

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

REVIEW: BeSeen - teach cyber safety to pre-teens (best free educational Android kids apps)

Bottom Line: BeSeen is an excellent hands-on introduction to social networking for pre-teens. This app simulates a social media news feed and the user must interact in cyber-safe ways to earn badges. I only wish I had have discovered this app when it was released a couple of years ago.

Price: Fully FREE          Size: 12MB

External links to the organisations who contributed to the creation of the app

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App explained: BeSeen is a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure story except the text is continually scrolling and badges are awarded for choosing the correct "adventure".  There are six sections to the app: Dashboard, My Profile, My Friends, My Messages, My Awards and Cypher. Dashboard is the main section where the social media messages are viewed and where the player interacts with the app. The main aim of the app is to collect badges which are awarded for positive and safe interactions. Altogether, there are 35 badges to collect including Gaming Gluttony Satiated, Tagging Trouble Tamed, Internet Addict Unplugged and more. Some awards are time sensitive and the player can miss the opportunity to collect a certain badge.

Multiple profiles can be created on the app, making it a very useful classroom tool. Individual progress is tracked by the number of badges collected. The newsfeed continually scrolls, and when opportunities arise, the player is given a choice of three status updates or responses to a friend's status. Over time, friends are added to the player's profile as part of the simulation. Perhaps the number of friends could be seen as a way of tracking progress also. The My Messages section automatically fills as friends send messages. The player is friends with their own mom and that is who the first message is from. The player does not write messages or status updates but simply chooses from the preset options.

Players personalize their profile with a choice of avatar and by entering their name. I named mine Mum, which was a little confusing when Mom came online. It is possible to speed up the newsfeed, however I found it difficult to keep up with the slowest speed. Fortunately, there is the option to pause the scrolling at any time to catch up. The scripts are realistic postings by pre-teens or teens about their days, school events such as tests and band practice, and include typical typing mistakes. Every time the player needs to choose an interaction, the newsfeed stops scrolling and the player needs to start it again by tapping the Play button. The Home Page can be accessed at any time if the player wants to check messages, view awards and friends, edit her/his profile or play Cypher.

Intermittently, friends will challenge the player to a game of Cypher or the player can choose to play it at any time also. It is a logic puzzler, much like Mastermind, that involves choosing and ordering three friends from a choice of six. It is timed but I could not find any record of my best and worst times. The game gives a welcome break from all of the reading of status updates but it does not appear to serve any real purpose in the app as a whole.

Pros/Cons: The newsfeed is extensive and the app would need to be played for hours to achieve all of the badges. It is not something that can be completed in one sitting, which makes it a useful classroom supplement to a program on cyber safety because students could "login" a few times a week and have regular reinforcement of what they are learning in class.

Although there is the option to pause at any time, I found the speed of the newsfeed too fast and cannot imagine anyone wanting to increase it by two or three times the speed. There is background music constantly playing during use of the app, with no way to turn it off except with the device's volume switch. Friends are added automatically with no option for the player to choose whether to add them or not. No information is given about the friend prior to them being added, but perhaps this is a realistic simulation of what pre-teens do with their social media accounts.

BeSeen has made good use of technology and presented the idea of cyber safety in a relevant and engaging way. It is an excellent quality app that contains no ads or in-app purchases and is completely cost free meaning it is great value. It is easy to see how it would link into school programs and be used by teachers and homeschoolers alike. The subject material is pertinent for our children and any safe practice that we can provide of how to use social media sensibly is going to be a welcome addition to our kids' tablets.

Suggestions for updates: There are no photos in the player's profile account, and no way of viewing other people's photos. This, I believe, is a huge part of pre-teens social media interaction and it would be good to see some more interaction with photos online e.g. sharing/privacy options. There are some photos posted by friends, so it is already included in the app, but I would like to see it playing a bigger part of the interactions. Similarly, sharing of links to videos or other viral webpages should feature more prominently in the game play.

There did not appear to be any way to unfriend people, and how to deal with being unfriended was only lightly touched on during my use of the app. Blocking and being blocked was never mentioned so if that is not already included later on in the app, then that could be a useful addition for future updates.

Summary: A useful tool to open up discussion about safe practices online, or for consolidation of classroom learning. It would need to be used as part of a broader program and discussion with students about their interactions in BeSeen would really make use of it as a coaching tool. Definitely worth downloading and I have not come across anything similar.

Device/s used:
Tablet - Samsung Galaxy Tab3 10.1" (Android 4.2.2)

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Cas is excited to discover that Captain Keen is available as an Android app!

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