How Green Messages on iPhones are Affecting Teen Mental Health

Kids all over the United States are begging their parents for an iPhone, and even though Android devices are a better option for teens. Parents are giving in because their child is being left out! I get it. You don’t want your kid to be the one who is not getting invited places, or just plain removed from conversations. But, if more parents become aware of the situation, and the things we can do to resolve it, the more kids can actually be included, no matter what kind of device they are using.

Many people don’t understand what the problem is, and how we have gotten to this point. It’s this lack of understanding that is helping perpetuate the problem. I have been STUNNED by how many grown adults would rather exclude friends and family than use a different messaging platform. This has to stop. Did you know that this is really only a problem in the United States? Only here are we so selfish, that as long as it works well for us, we don’t need to change to accommodate others.

Since Android is actually the majority of the market outside the US, most people use a cross-platform messaging application so everyone can be included. The obsession people in the United States have with iMessage is seriously mind-blowing. Hey, iPhone users… it’s YOUR platform that is causing the problem. On PURPOSE.

The Problem With iMessage

Apple devices have a built-in text messaging application. This is called iMessage. However, this isn’t just a texting application, it’s a messaging application like Facebook Messenger that just HAPPENS to also do texting. Just like any other messaging application, you need the same application on both ends for it to work properly. If you try to send someone a Facebook message, and they don’t have Facebook messenger, they will never get that message.

This is why when you try to communicate with an Android device over iMessage, it doesn’t work properly, because there is no iMessage application for Android. Instead, iMessage converts the message to a standard SMS or MMS message (short message service or multimedia message service depending on if it’s text or an image or group message).

Because of this incompatibility, Apple decides to change the color of the messages to Green to signify the messages are now transmitting over SMS or MMS, and no longer via iMessage. This new color appears to “break” the group text or messaging. Many people don’t understand why they are now seeing the green messages on their iPhone, and things no longer work. They just know that it’s now “broken”.

The Solutions

There are 2 extremely easy solutions to this problem. Apple refuses to do either of them, even though their greed in this matter is damaging the mental health of teens.

Solution 1: Build an iMessage app for Android

The first solution to this problem is to just build an iMessage app for the Android platform. Android plays nice with Apple, why does it refuse to play nice with anyone else. Google has released so many apps for the iOS platform. You can manage parental controls for an Android device from an iPhone exactly the same as managing it from an Android device. You can use Google maps on an iPhone (even though Apple tried to block you from doing so for such a long time!)

Apple has finally created an Apple Music app for Android, yet it still doesn’t have an Apple TV app or a way to manage parental controls on an iPhone with an Android device. The most glaring omission, though, is the lack of iMessage on Android.

Solution 2: Utilize RCS in iMessage

Messaging standards are constantly changing. Back in my college days, when cell phones didn’t even have touch screens, and they definitely didn’t have keyboards, SMS was the standard for texting. This is why when Twitter first started there was a small character limit. It was the maximum size a text message could be over SMS.

The next standard for texting became MMS. This allowed for people to send images and videos over text and add more people to the group so you can text more than one person at a time. If you have someone in your group text that always ends up just responding to an individual instead of the whole group, they just need to turn on MMS. They are using SMS.

Now we have graduated to RCS (Rich Communication Services). This new platform allows for fun things like reacting to people’s messages and adding stickers, and more technical functions like end-to-end encryption. This platform is a standard that all cell phone hardware manufacturers and cell service providers are adopting… with the exception, of course, of Apple.

Including RCS in iMessage will eliminate the cross-platform issues and allow the messages to flow seamlessly from one platform to the other.

Why Apple Refuses to Implement Either Solution

Back in 2013 an Apple executive brought up the idea that they should bring iMessage to Android. Cue mentioned that Google already has the best search, mail, free video (YouTube) and browsers, so they should make sure that iMessage becomes a standard platform and they would need to have an Android app to make it so. Craig Federighi countered that “I am concerned [that] iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.

These internal communications were brought to light during the case Fortnite has brought against Apple. The case shows how Apple purposely keeps people “locked-in” to their devices, as they make it extremely difficult for users to make the switch. They leverage iMessage as the main thing keeping people on their platform.

Since my background is in IT, particularly Managed Services Providers (which generally provide IT Services and Support to small to medium-sized businesses that do not have internal IT departments), I am very familiar with what it takes to keep a client happy with your services. As we pitch to a potential client, we come across a ton of different ways people do business. I have always said to run as fast as you can away from someone or something that makes it difficult for you to leave.

You should be so confident that no one would ever want to leave your products or services because your platform is the BEST. You shouldn’t have to rely on shady tactics to keep them locked in. At that point, you don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to innovate. You have forced your customers to stay with you, even if they aren’t happy.

This just makes me wonder… do all iOS users in the US just have a massive case of Stockholm syndrome?

I don’t hide the fact that I do not like Apple. I am a HUGE fan of technology. I love how I can use it to best suit my needs and my family’s needs. I LOVE being able to choose how I use technology to fit MY LIFE. The main reason I do not like Apple is that I feel like they take those choices away. They tell you how you can use their devices, and you are not allowed to use them another way.

What can we do, since Apple refuses to?

The first thing we can do is to stand strong as parents. So many parents just give in and get their teen an iPhone. If more parents didn’t give in, there would be more teens on Android, and this problem wouldn’t be so big. Android gives you way more options for monitoring and parental controls. You are so limited when your child has an iPhone. Don’t give in to peer pressure and stand your ground.

If you have already given your child an iPhone, PLEASE encourage them to use an app like WhatsApp or GroupMe to communicate with their friends. These apps will include every platform and won’t exclude their friends. Talk to your kids about how would they feel if all of their friends were on a messaging thread except for them, and help them understand how they could be hurting their friends.

Just like you would be upset if they wouldn’t let their friend sit with them at lunch, make sure your kids are not excluding people that should be included. This problem is seriously damaging teens’ mental health, as they feel excluded and “less than” for having an Android device. Teens are even being bullied for having Android devices and this is mainly due to iMessage’s hold over the US population.

It is happening to adults, and it is happening to kids, and we have the power to stop it, so why aren’t we?

These days we do everything in our power to be more inclusive. We verify pronouns before we assume. We try to be more inclusive in our speech and actions. Except, of course, if you use an Android device, because there is no way I’m messaging anyone with a green bubble.

This attitude is so prevalent among kids and adults. Lets erase this stigma, and take back the power to use technology however WE want to use it, not how some large tech company wants us to use it.

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About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website

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