What You Need to Know About Your Kids’ Anonymous Apps
By Amanda Grossman-Scott
Whisper. Secret. Shush. What do these words have in common? They all imply secrecy and privacy. They are also all names of apps currently available for anonymous information sharing as well.
AfterSchool is an app that has been banned from the App Store at least twice and is no longer available for download on Android or Apple due to users making threats and online bullying (Wagner, 2014). This app allows users to affiliate with a school and post things about that school. Creators of this app and others like it seem to have either no notion or no care for the repercussions of what anonymity combined with the reckless nature of youth can create. Michael Callahan, one of the creators of AfterSchool, recently told Redcode.net “Our job is to protect our users. At this point we don’t have a 100 percent solution as to what that means,” Callahan said, “Our main goal is to remove the worst of the worst.” (Wagner, 2014)
But who decides what “the worst of the worst” is? And is it possible to govern an app with users from 14,000 US schools (Redcode.net, 2014)? In reality, anything other than basic keyword monitoring is impossible.
Anonymous apps like these are also becoming a magnet for sexual predators. In July of 2014 Whisper, which is another location based app, was blamed for a case where a 16 year-old teen was allegedly raped by a 42 year-old male after “meeting” on Whisper. (Fox 29 News, 2014)
What do parents need to know about these apps?
- Anyone can post anything and all the content is completely anonymous.
- Many of these apps are location-based so the users are all aware that those people they are sharing information with are local-perhaps even people they know.
- Some of the apps organize users by school or another central location.
- Users disclose rumors and gossip, secrets of their own or other’s confidences.
- Users are anonymous but can identify themselves in other ways and can (and have) identified other users.
- Users can access other users’ general or specific location depending on settings. This opens the door to online predators and other dangerous threats.
- From the start, apps that provide anonymity to users have been rampant with online bullying, violent threats between users, as well as terroristic threats. (Burns, 2014)
What does this mean for parents?
- Parents should, as always, be monitoring their child’s internet usage and ANY apps the child has on a phone.
- Be aware of apps like Poof!, Hide It Pro, and App Lock that hide a smart phone user’s chosen apps with one click or swipe.
Consider this: if a user feels the need to be post something anonymously, is it likely to be positive or negative? Reputation building or reputation destroying? The truth is, apps like these don’t serve any positive purpose at all, and we should beware if our kids are using them.
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Burns, M. (2014, December 3). After School Is The Latest Anonymous App Resulting In Student Cyberbullying And School Threats. Retrieved December 19, 2014, from http://techcrunch.com/2014/12/03/after-school-is-the-latest-anonymous-app-resulting-in-student-cyberbullying-and-school-threats/
Wagner, K. (2014, December 4). Who Is Behind After School, the Anonymous App Taking Over American High Schools? Retrieved December 19, 2014, from http://recode.net/2014/12/04/who-is-behind-after-school-the-anonymous-app-taking-over-american-high-schools/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social
Police: New App Could Be Attracting Predators. (2014, July 1). Retrieved December 19, 2014, from http://www.myfoxphilly.com/story/25921324/app