A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
What's it about?
FIRECHAT uses Bluetooth technology and a peer-to-peer network to create what's called a "mesh network." Users can create local networks within a 200-foot range, and this network can (theoretically) grow depending on how many users are within range. Messages and photos can be sent on- or offline, to individuals or groups of up to 50 people. Contacts are drawn from your email and phone lists. In theory, you can send an encrypted, private message from one FireChat user to another until it reaches the intended recipient, even if there's no Wi-Fi or cellular connection.
Is it any good?
The whole selling point of the app is that it works without the internet, but it's just not quite there yet. For some users, the first thing the app does when you try to sign up is ask for a Wi-Fi connection, which seems to contradict the intended purpose. Add to that the risks of opening your phone up to use a peer-to-peer network (possible information tracking and other interference) and unreliable messaging, and you're bound to be disappointed.
With chat and messaging only working half the time (or less), your only option is to hang out in the "Everyone" chat room, which often -- like most open chat rooms -- contains all kinds of commentary. FireChat's idea for an exponentially huge local network is a good one, especially in times of crisis when people need to communicate and cell towers and internet are unavailable. Sadly, at this writing, the app just doesn't deliver on its conceptual promise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about chatting with strangers on apps like FireChat. What are the privacy settings? How do you turn off location tracking? Do you want to give the app access to all of your contacts?
Discuss apps that require you to recruit your friends. How do your friends feel about getting invitations to download new apps?
Think about how a peer-to-peer network could be used in an emergency or natural disaster. How could you use it to help people? Are there any risks?
For kids who love social media and apps that don't need Wi-Fi
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.