No Wi-Fi? No Problem. Teens Use New App to ‘Air Chat’

“Hey! Who shut off the data?”Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.54.42 PM

Is this a familiar question in your house? Teens who panic when their data runs out or when they can’t find a Wi-Fi connection now have a way to text nearby pals by using an app called Jott.

Jott is gaining momentum with Junior High and High School-aged kids who are using the new messaging app to connect with friends in their schools without relying on data or Wi-Fi. How do they do it? The Jott app works between devices via a “mesh network,” by connecting devices that have blue tooth or Wi-Fi radio capability. Jott calls this communication, an “air chat.”

Should you be concerned? Like any messaging app (and there are many), Jott is as threatening (or non) as the person using it.

Kids like Jott for a few reasons:

  • Jott breaks up users by schools (both middle and high schools) within a user’s location.
  • Kids can text another Jott user while at school, on the bus, or even in surprising places like an airplane (which is very cool). As long as that user is within 100 to 2,000 feet, Jott will locate them and connect them.
  • Jott can’t be shut down due to no Wi-Fi as many schools’ policies mandate. If their school doesn’t have Wi-Fi and they don’t have a data plan, kids have no problem connecting throughout the school day.Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.43.23 PM
  • Kids can use Jott on iPads, tablets, iPods, Androids and any device with a mesh network (bluetooth, Wi-Fi radio).
  • If kids can’t afford Wi-Fi at home or phone data — Jott is a free connector.
  • Disappearing texts and photo options make the network feel safe and private.
  • No anonymous users (so states the policy).
  • Screenshot detection—if someone takes a screenshot, user is notified.
  • Jott has stickers/graphics to decorate photos and texts.

Family Talking Points

Trust building. If you are a parent who shuts off data as a consequence of breaking a family rule or misusing a device, then Jott could be a loophole for teens. Discuss the importance of trust building and why using Jott is not an option when grounded.

Anonymity factor. While Jott claims have better security over other anonymous messaging by requiring users to use real names and be verified by a classmate, working around this aspect would be simple for kids. Talk to your kids about the dangers of anonymity and to be alert to cyber bullies, predators, scammers, and catfish (fraudulent profiles) — regardless of what an app promises.

Vanishing photo myth. Though Jott claims a users’ photos vanish after a few minutes, it’s wise to teach kids to dismiss the idea that anything posted online truly vanishes. Talk to your kids about what’s appropriate to post and what’s not and when in doubt—don’t!Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.43.10 PM

Texting check-up time. While you are having the Jott discussion, make sure you are up-to-date on what messaging apps your child uses, if any, and go over the basics listed here. Anytime is a good time to talk about the dos and donts of texting—especially since that’s the #1 way kids communicate with one another.

Tame the texting. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. As kids head back to school, let them know that using Jott all the time, like during class, isn’t going to fly. If they use the app unwisely, be sure you have put consequences in place and are prepared to enforce them.

Good social. Remind your kids that the power of any social network — be it positive or destructive — lies in the hands of the person using it. Talk about the many ways Jott can be used to encourage someone in the room who may be having a tough day, being overlooked, or even bullied. If your child opens a Jott account, make sure he or she knows how to flag and report a user who is bullying others or who appears suspicious.

To watch a CNN interview with Jott CEO and Co-founder Jared Allgood, click here.

Do you have concerns with the Jott app? Let’s talk.




Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family.

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