Kids are remarkably bold when electronic gizmos veil their verbiage, whether it’s professing teen love on IM or mobile texting a current crush.
Toss in new digital offerings like Loopt’s buddy-tracking GPS, 3-D virtual avatars sidling up to each other to meet new ‘friends,’ MySpace Mobile and Business Week’s latest article on mobile’s massive growth, and you have parents in fear-fueled media apoplexy.
Jangl ironically might help soothe a few frayed nerves.
With Jangl, “Could I call you?” becomes an SMS code swap, not a real world traceable phone fingerprint.
Tap in the 10-digit code given to you for that particular person and you have cell to cell access without either party having to reveal identity, whereabouts, or even a real name.
Though it sounds like Bourne Identity in a mobile media morph, it’s essentially a two-way privacy tool for sending or receiving anonymous phone calls; sure sounds useful applied to the teen social networking arena.
Kids that collide via happenstance at a concert, multi-school mixer, on vacation, or ANY public venue can now talk on the phone without exchanging ‘real world’ info.
“Friends of a friend’s friend” can land in a logic-based limbo land until everyone’s
comfy and knows each other better.
Media may focus on the “Talk to me, baby. Let’s make it real” approach to teen networking, but just as many have been reticent to give out ANY information, experiencing “Cinderella moments,” when a fascinating job lead, collaborator, or like-minded soul vanishes into a large crowd, never to be heard from again.
If they’d exchanged codes early on like a digital calling card, there’s no risk of ‘tmi’ because you can ONLY find the person again if they WANT to be found, since the Jangl number shows up like a unique Caller ID.
Think of all the times you’ve ditched your business cards at a networking function because you didn’t want some sales rep hounding you. Or, kicked yourself for NOT asking for a seatmate’s info before stepping off that European train.
Jangl puts mobile in a ‘what have you got to lose’ holding pattern, so new relationships develop safely on your teen’s own terms.
Jangl also enables an online conversation to go offline to voice in a safe context to chat with a ‘known friend’ from a forum or social network. That sounds eery to the parental ear until one considers it’s similar to working with a client across the country one’s never met face to face.
Why would a teen want to do that?
Animation collaboration on Mojizu or DeviantArt, an arcane book they share on Shelfari, music interests, health issues, peer support, commonalities. Or someone to talk to that makes life less isolating.
Teens can speak by voice, still be safe, and bring a sense of meaningful human contact back into the digital web to renew the lost art of conversation.
Jangl also enables you to ‘turn off’ any single number so that the relationship ends with it. (unlike the cyberbulling or jilted flaming reverb we sometimes hear about in teen safety forums)
I suppose rejection itself is a downside, but when someone is an acquaintance rather than a friend it seems it’s a given that the relationship is in its fledgling stages to see how things mesh.
Jangl is still in beta, so it’s free right now, and I’m not sure where it will shake out cost-wise. Technological issues and WiMaAX and Wi-Fi advancements will no doubt impact the mobile platform too.
As telephony shifts into higher levels of interaction and entrepreneurial spawning is massively mobile-centric, I think adults will be looking for new ways to manage teen social media use wisely without a chokehold.
But no matter what, anonymity and privacy makes a lot of sense to me when it comes to kids.
With 200 million mobile phones deployed in the U.S. alone, you can bet your bippy most parents have no clue what they’re handing over when they buy kids that ‘cellphone for safety.’
Mobile is ubiquitous, from texting to gaming, ringtones and chat, but often parents plunk down money for the ‘latest and greatest’ version under the naïve presumption that they’re simply ‘buying a phone.’
Kids have got the whole world in their hands. Quite literally. And it’s wild and wooly for those that don’t know the powerful access and use that opens up with the media tools they’re given.
As parents try to put balance into the media struggle between privacy, safety and fun, I’d think Jangl could become a best buddy pretty quick.
Even though the mantra is “Don’t give out your number” some kids still do…whether it’s to “friends of friends met at a party,” the cute guy at the checkout, or as part of a larger mobile social school scene.
Who knows, it might even turn into a family policy as a first strike safeguard. I can envision a teen passing a slip of paper:
“I’m not allowed to give out my number, but here, gimme a Jangl, anytime.”