Technology is ever-growing and changing. Things can be trending one day and completely irrelevant the next. And unless you’re making a conscientious effort to keep up with everything on a day-to-day basis, it can feel like the tech train left the station without you, leaving you to wait for the next train to hop on.
At Plugged In, we’ve always tried to keep our audience up to date. We write articles about specific apps parents should be aware of. We have a Tech Guide that gives some great pointers about how to keep up with technology, talk to your kids about it and even instill some parameters to keep your family safe. But sometimes, you just need to know what’s happening right now in the world of social media and technology to know what you should even be thinking about.
So, we’re going to try to help you out. Every month, we’ll release a new “Tech Trends” article giving you technology’s highlights. Hopefully these topics will then spark some conversations within your family about their applications and implications. You may still want to do additional research depending on your level of interest. But at least when your kid goes off about ChatGPT, you won’t sit there wondering “what or who is a ChatGPT?”
So, without further ado, here are the new tech trends to keep your eye on for February 2023.
The Rise of AI
There are many discussions to have about artificial intelligence. We could talk about the spiritual implications of humans creating a “sentient” being—and maybe that’s a great question to really get you and your kids thinking. I could mention the plethora of science fiction books, movies, TV shows and video games that show exactly why AI isn’t a good idea (they all involve the machines taking over). But while those make for interesting discourse, AI—as in technology that truly develops thoughts and insights on its own—isn’t quite there yet.
In fact, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says that while “artificial” is accurate, “intelligence” isn’t, since human beings really still don’t know enough about the brain to mimic its function. In an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box”, he joked that he worked for a company that did, in fact, learn how to make a brain, but it would take nine months to grow *wink*. (And privately, I have a chuckle at how incredible our Creator is and how ironic it is that science will never keep up with Him.)
That said, some AI generators (like DALL-E) are able to create stories, poems and even artwork. And according to an article in The New Yorker, the creators whose works inspired those pieces are getting angry. Yes, technically all art is derivative. But when an artist’s work is being used to teach the AI without permission or compensation, it really rubs salt in the old “starving artist” wound.
Educators are also cracking down on the technology since apps like ChatGPT (and soon Google’s Bard) can generate paragraphs-worth of information that can technically then be used by students to either learn or cheat. (For more detailed information on this, read Kennedy Unthank’s article: “ChatGPT: Your Child’s Artificial Tutor? Or Cheater?”) And it’s certainly worth a discussion for parents to find out if and how their children are potentially using the app to complete school assignments.
TikTok Still Might Get Banned
The social media app TikTok has been under fire nearly since its conception. Back in 2019, the U.S. Army actually banned soldiers from using the China-based app over cyber security threats. Fox News reports that Congress has prohibited the use of TikTok on federal government devices and that universities are starting to bar it as well. And TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is definitely feeling the pressure, since they spent $5.4 million last year lobbying to keep the app accessible.
But the pressure on the app might not stop there. FBI Director Christopher Wray has been warning the U.S. government about the espionage potential of TikTok, pushing to ban it on private devices nationwide.
BeReal Is Better But Not Perfect
Adam also informed parents about the app’s pitfalls. “The ability to befriend strangers is still there,” he wrote. Inappropriate and explicit picture bans rely on user-reporting to enforce. “Finally,” he said, “geolocation is present, too, which is another issue when it comes to interacting with BeReal users that a user doesn’t actually know.”
Well, that last bit is something parents really do need to pay more attention to. Recent reports have demonstrated how people can use the app to stalk others. It displays your exact location at the exact moment you post. And if someone is nearby or even just paying attention to your posting patterns, they could predict where you’ll be on any given day.
Furthermore, the app encourages users to sync their phone contacts. This is meant to help you find people whom you already know. However, a huge flaw in that syncing is that it doesn’t filter out people you may have blocked. So you could easily receive a friend suggestion for someone you are actively trying to avoid online due to toxic or inappropriate behavior.
So parents, as always, don’t trust the technology to do the parenting for you. Have conversations with your kids about safe internet practices for using BeReal (such as not displaying their location) and whether or not they feel like BeReal makes them feel more or less secure.
Hashtags, trends, reels, sounds, tracks, stories—we know it feels impossible to keep up with what the kids are into these days. But here’s a quick overview of what your teen might be posting/watching on TikTok, Instagram and all the other “socials” this month.
- “Somewhere Only We Know” (133K posts) – This trend encourages users to stop and enjoy the little things. Using “Somewhere only we know (Keane)” by sofia.peters, the videos show moments by the fire, walks in the great outdoors and other breaks from the hustle and bustle.
- “Pretty Girls Walk” (105K posts) – Uses the track “Pretty Girls Walk” by bigbossvette to show off your skills, whether you’re a track star or super-talented chef.
- “Pass or Smash” (74.4K posts) – The audio is paired with text-overlay detailing what you’re passing on this week and what you’re loving this week.
- “To Stay” (68K posts) – Show DIY projects, share style tips or recap your latest trip with a sped up, remixed version of Rihanna’s “Stay.”
- “Should I Make Some Drama?” (19.2K posts) – This trending audio (courtesy of Selena Gomez) suggests that you spice up your life with some drama.
- “Okay, You’ve Got Me There” (16K posts) – Essentially users pretend to get called out for something they’ve done but then point out that is isn’t a crime.
- “What’s Rule Number One?” (11.2K posts) – When the audio says “Party,” say what you want to do, but shouldn’t do – like retail therapy when you should be paying bills.
- “Perfect” (6K posts) – Anything from behind-the-scenes content to step-by-step tutorials paired with “Lowdown” by bozscaggsmusic.