App Review: BeSeen Social Networking Game

iPhone Screenshot 1

I’m not quite sure what to make of this iPod App. BeSeen, which was developed with funding from the Carnegie-Mellon Foundation, is designed to teach “social networking” through a game-play of a fake social network. The player is a high school student (you create a profile, choose a grade and gender, and get started … with an initial update from your mom) and the game unfolds in a quick-time flow of days and updates. An entire school year takes place in two hours of playing time.

On one hand, I am exploring it for a possible inclusion in a new unit I am developing for my sixth graders around Digital Citizenship in December. I will be talking social networking and the app has some possibilities for discussing how a network is designed and works. It has an area of updates, a profile page, friends, etc. There are some simple (too simple) games that get played to earn you the right to choose canned updates and earn badges (what is it with badges these days?). I like that it is a contained social network (it’s only an app, not a network) and that it involved role-playing.

I was looking at the teaching guide (always nice to have one of those) and I liked this overview of the key reasons for students to use BeSeen:

1. Your “friends” on social networking websites are only people you know in real life. (See Lesson 2.)
2. You must understand and personalize your privacy settings, and then review them regularly. (See Lesson 1.)
3. Your online profile should reflect your best qualities. You never know who will see it, such as schools and groups you would like to join someday, employers you would like to hire you, and other adults and friends who you would like to impress. (See Lesson 3.)
4. Don’t say anything about someone online that you wouldn’t say to someone face-to- face or on a billboard. (See Lesson 4.)
5. Bullying online is immediate, widespread and permanent. (See Lesson 5.)
6. Cyber threats and dangers could very easily affect you. They’re much more common than most people think. For ex- ample, over one-third of school children experience cyberbullying. (See Lesson 5.)
7. It’s okay to report any wrongdoings that you witness online. You should. (See Lesson 5.)
8. You should ask permission to post any photographs or videos of your friends and to tag them. (See Lesson 1.)
9. When it comes to location-sharing, you should only share your location with people who need to know it, such as your parents. Most of the time, you should simply turn off location-sharing.
(See Lesson 1.)
10. Just because you can use mobile devices everywhere and any time, that doesn’t mean you should. Think twice to make sure you are not being disruptive to the people or the situation around you. (See Lesson 4.)
11. Don’t neglect your real life in favor of your online life. (See Lesson 2.)
12. There are boundaries in the student/ teacher relationship in the social net- working environment. (See Lesson 3.)

On the other hand, it comes across as a little too preachy. Players who make a “bad choice” (like skipping class to get some doughnuts) get harangued by others in the network. I know that sounds bad. I am not in favor of skipping school for doughnuts. But, I don’t think a real social network would respond like the way “friends” respond here.

I am not all that far into the game, but I was checking out possible badges to be earned and there are two references to porn and sexting. That gives me pause for use with my sixth graders, although I should note that it is labeled as being designed for kids 12 years old and older due to:

  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
  • Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity

(Not sure what nudity is talked about.)

Which brings me to my point: I can’t quite figure out who the audience is for this app.

If you are a high school student, there is no way you would see any value in this app. It’s too basic and too preachy. They would laugh you out of the classroom. So, I suspect it is designed for the age level that I teach (middle school), just as they start dipping their toes into social networking. I’m intrigued by this concept of using the app (OK, so I see my students making a backstory of their character, writing about the choices their characters faced, and maybe even comparing/contrasting this app with their own real experiences in networks) and I am still wondering if it might fit.

I’ll keep playing my role as a high school senior and see where the conversation flows …

Peace (in the app),
Kevin

 

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