App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
brighten App Poster Image
Manufactured compliments spread cheer, however shallow.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

While the app is not designed for educational purposes, the fun prompts and encouragement to be positive and brighten someone's day can reinforce positive social skills, though without depth.

Ease of Play

In-app tutorial and videos show how to use it, but it's all pretty intuitive.


Love Advice section in community includes some explicit discussions about sex.


No language censors, so some profanity can get through.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Status prompt of a burning cigarette auto-populates with "you are my addiction because."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that brighten is a social-networking app that allows teens to send compliments to friends anonymously. They have the option to reveal their identity to the recipient if they choose. Messages can be fully original or a fill-in-the-blank style. The app is currently available only for iOS devices. Users can send anonymous texts to their friends, but only those with iOS devices will receive the text, which only notifies them that they received a message through the app and links them to download it to view the message. The whole point is to brighten someone's day with a compliment, but there's no clear definition of what's a compliment. Though you can send messages anonymously, others can see your messages in your friends' feeds. Topics in the community cover love advice with plenty of mentions of sex. To register, teens have to supply a phone number and email address. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

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What's it about?

To register for BRIGHTEN, teens have to provide both a phone number and an email address and are encouraged to complete a profile that includes a picture. They can invite contacts from their phone and see which contacts are already registered. Then they can send messages for friends to "brighten" their days. Users can send messages anonymously but reveal their identities even after messages are sent. There's also a community board where teens can post questions and comment on other's posts on love advice, vents, and random thoughts.

Is it any good?

Despite its emphasis on positive connections, this social networker doesn't really stand out in the crowd. Since it's only available on iOS, teens can't connect with all their friends. The focus on brightening someone's day with a positive comment is noble, but these brief messages are often shallow and serve only to feed the dopamine rush that can fuel tech addiction. The Community -- which gives teens the chance to vent, ask for love advice, or share weird thoughts -- is pretty cool but can get racy. While it's definitely a more positive approach to the anonymous app, it might benefit from more features and offscreen options to deepen the experience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the power of positive words such as those encouraged by brighten. Talk about how it feels to get a message from someone and how you can spread that positivity to other even without technology. Kids could make a card for a friend, call a loved one to say hello, or give a compliment to a neighbor.

  • Remind kids that they are never truly anonymous on social media. Explain that they are giving up that anonymity when they agree to the terms of service and privacy policy.

App details

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