Learn more about this popular (and positive!) teen app.

If you don’t know about the anonymous app for teens, TBH, just ask your kids – they probably do. And they aren’t alone, because it’s one of the #1 free apps in iTunes! 

That’s no small feat under any circumstance but considering it was only launched in August 2017, this is truly amazing. 

So, what’s their “secret sauce”? A quality that seems to be missing by the world as of late: KINDNESS.

What Does TBH Stand For?

For the parents out there, tbh is short for “to be honest.” 

The app developers created the app “… for giving anonymous feedback to friends. Unlike other anonymous apps, all the feedback is positive. We built tbh because we believe that social networks should make us feel better about ourselves – not worse.” 

The tbh app did not start the “tbh” trend, which by teen definition means saying something positive to a friend. The “tbh” action of promoting kindness actually started a few years ago on Instagram. “TBH” on Instagram is now a form of virtual currency and users trade a “tbh” for a “like” on a photo.

Can This App Stay Positive in the Era of Trolls?

When I review most apps, they all seemingly start with potential, but in their need to monetize, they cut corners or put revenue ahead of kid’s user experience. Excitingly, the tbh app actually got it right for teens (where other apps failed) in three important ways:

  1. There is no way to directly communicate with others. TBH keeps everything anonymous except the person’s gender. (And even provides a non-binary option for those that don’t identify as male or female.)
  2. The inability to directly contact another user minimizes harassment and bullying, the likes of which has been reported extensively by other anonymous (and defunct) apps like Sarahah or YikYak.
  3. There are no fill-in text options when sending or receiving responses. Users can only send the positive responses provided by the app itself.

How Does TBH Work?

TBH presents the user with a series of polls about friends or classmates and each series includes 12 polls at a time. Below is an overview of the functionality of the tbh app: 

Sign-Up
Sign in with your first and last name. Then, select your school, gender, and grade. Next, upload your contacts from your phone and you’re instantly able to answer multiple-choice questions where four of your random friends are the answers.

Polls 
Fun, uplifting polls are created about your classmates and friends, which are collected from the contacts you uploaded. Polls tend to be overtly positive although there are some that are flirty, or even catty. Here’s an example of some of the polls users see:

  • “Still going to keep in touch with in 10 years.”
  • “Always nice to talk to.”
  • “Going to win an Academy Award.”
  • “Who is most likely to be president?”
  • “Best person to go on a road trip with?”

When the poll question is revealed, four options of friends or classmates are listed for users to select from about who they think best matches the poll question. 

If you like the poll question, but don’t think it’s the right fit for the friends featured as options, simply hit the “shuffle” button to have a new batch of friends revealed. If you don’t like the poll question, you can also skip it and move onto the next poll by tapping the “skip” button.

Notifications 
The person selected as the answer in each poll receives a notification in their inbox each time they’re chosen. Although the “winner” doesn’t know who selected them, the notification does include their grade, gender, the other choices not selected, and a prized gemstone.

TBH-Picked.png?mtime=20180416162628#asset:45646


Gemstones 
Gemstones are awarded each time a user is selected in a poll. The color is based on the gender of the person who answered the poll; pink if a girl picks you, blue if a boy picks you, and purple if a non-gender person selected you. Similar to how gemstone rewards are used in other apps, this app keeps track of how many gems are collected and they can be redeemed to unlock questions and other features in the future.

TBH-Gems.png?mtime=20180416162603#asset:45645

Adding More Friends
If you want to increase your friends on the app, there are four easy ways:

  • Phone Contacts
  • Friends Username
  • Friends-of-friends
  • Join your school network

What Parents Need to Know About TBH

While the tbh app will not eradicate cyberbullying, though it certainly gives parents an alternative to traditional anonymous apps that have previously given abusers a hidden cover for bullying, threats and racism. 

A few additional features that, as a parent of three children, I appreciate are:

  • TBH takes steps to limit addictivity in their app by limiting users to no more than 12 polls, so your child is forced to take a break. (P.S. For more info about why this is so important, check out this blog about slaves to the screen.)
  • It’s specifically designed for ages 13 and older (grades 9 and up).
  • It’s heavily moderated.
  • Kids can create their own positive poll questions if they follow these three rules:
    1. It’s appropriate for ages 13 and up
    2. It’s uplifting
    3. It’s not offensive to any group
  • TBH saves all poll answers, so when your child needs a self-esteem boost, they can simply click through their feed. Their tbh newsfeed can also be uploaded to Instagram Stories and Snapchat.
  • There are no fake messages. TBH guarantees that every single message received was sent by an actual friend not a bot. To date, tbh users have sent over 150 million messages to each other.
    It provides the positivity and emotional support that teens crave – even if you embarrassingly tell them all the time! Positive reinforcement from peers can be music to your child’s ears, even if they cringe when you say the same things

Note to parents: All user-generated polls are vetted by the TBH team, but they do receive over 10,000 submissions as day, so only 1% of user-generated content ever makes it into the app.

The one cautionary note I have about the tbh app is that some of the polls can be a bit too flirty for my taste. Three of the poll questions we monitored when testing the app, I did not feel were completely appropriate for a 13-year-old.

  • Super-Hot Sauce
  • Deserves a Kiss
  • Have My Children
TBH-Screenshot.png?mtime=20180416162908#asset:45647


 Even with the flirty nature of some of the polls, as a parent, I truly appreciate any app developer that strives to add positivity into my child’s life and limits the ability of a bullying online. If you’re concerned about cyberbullying with your children, make sure to read our Cyberbullying Guidebook for Parents.

About Kristin MacLaughlin

Mom of three, fosters rescued dogs, and is helping to drive the conversation about digital parenting as VP of Consumer Marketing for Zift.

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