In what appears to be Facebook’s never-ending attempts to deliver products that would compete with Snapchat, we now have a new addition that is targeted at just teenagers. It’s called Lifestage and its an iOS appthat is basically a really private video diary where students answer questions about themselves.
Coming to the bit about teenagers, yes, it’s an app that is just meant for them. Meaning if you are 22 or over, you will only be able to make a profile and literally do nothing else.
And on that note, it also means that nobody else can monitor or access what a teenager does inside this app, apart from Facebook.
19 year old Michael Sayman designed the app who wanted to replicate the good ol’ days of Facebook with just college students and no one else onboard. Sayman happens to be Facebook’s youngest Product Manager and also the creator of 4 Snaps, a turn-based photo game which was one of the fastest growing apps developed by a teenager.
Lifestage is an app that will always want you to work hard to build and maintain your reputation (this is college after all). So you logged in by adding your verified mobile number, email ID and more what’s next? Well for the students in the US who will be using this app, you will only be able to see others in your school after at least 20 people from your school start using the same. This would be similar to Pages on Facebook where a number of individuals need to ‘Like a Page’ in order for the page to be verified and giving the admin access to details like insights.
Talking about Facebook, there is none of it in here. This is a standalone app that lets its users simply update their profile by adding videos. Users in the same school get notified once a user updates his/her profile page updating it with a video snippet. While it may start to sound like the perfect Utopia for teenagers, which involves no interference from parents (like on Facebook) there are a couple of grey areas.
One of them is to do with the sign up process. There is simply no way to tell that users who claim to be enrolled in your high school actually belong to them. There is one little failsafe here and that comes with Lifestages restrictions that allow a student to connect with only one school and more importantly does not allow you to change it. And that’s just about it. Upon logging in, the terms of service will appear absurd. The app will be able to broadcast all information emanating from a user’s profile no matter what the case. Other than that there are no privacy controls whatsoever.
Teens these days take competition fiercely and social networks have had some problems in the past dealing with their antics. There have been innumerable cases of bullying, abuse and other violations on services like Snapchat in the past. So without any sort of monitoring, Lifestage could be headed in that very direction as it remains to be seen how Facebook will handle these violations as what happens in the app will have real world outcomes.
While Snapchat is accessible by everyone, having a smaller networks where things are not always visible to everyone could lead to some big problems, especially when you consider that these are teenagers using your app. Michael Sayman may have created the perfect Facebook with the right intentions in mind. But with little or no moderation things could get out of hand.