What is Sarahah? and how is it putting kids at risk?

A new app designed to provide businesses with an anonymous feedback platform for employees,  is now making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

We discuss with Cyber Experts Jordan Foster from ySafe, a Clinical Psychologist and Pete Brown, an IT Educator - why Sarahah is now being used by kids everywhere.

What is Sarahah?

The app and accompanying website have been designed as somewhat of a HR platform where users can create an account, and distribute their account URL in order for other users to send them anonymous feedback. The feedback is supposed to be more honest than they might otherwise provide if they were providing it in a more controlled setting, where they’re at risk of the person finding out what they have said.

An apps ‘purpose’ or ‘intended use’ is very rarely utilised correctly, especially when it falls into the hands of a different audience. As an example, Instagram was originally designed to simply share photos with friends and create a curated page of whatever a user chose to share. But users now share photos with the sole motivation to gain likes and followers. This is a similar case with Sarahah, it’s intended purpose has been forgotten and now teens and kids are using it to bully one another via Snapchat.

Shortly after Snapchat updated the app to include a map, they also allowed for URL’s to be posted within snaps. Users upload a snap to their story, including their Sarahah link which then allows all of their followers to send anonymous comments to their Sarahah account. Unfortunately, a user who wishes to send feedback, doesn’t need to have a Sarahah account themselves which makes their feedback untraceable.  As you can imagine, this is opening kids and teens up to an onslaught of entirely vicious cyber bullying, unlike a lot of what has taken place previously - as now all someone has to do is click a button to unleash a mountain of hatred on another person.

Pete Brown, an IT Teacher at a private high school has raised the issue of this app with us and explained how students are using it at his school. ‘Basically , with this app, you can set up an account and link it to your Snapchat and give access to all people your friends with and follow. This then allows you to  send anonymous messages to people. People then can engage in conversations that are completely anonymous. This is a tool used to say nasty things and bully. This was an app used with a recent incident I dealt with where a student had a whole group of people saying things about them and then the victim started receiving direct messages from one particular student, who I have since reprimanded.  The common use is for ‘TBH’ and ‘Give me a name’  games. Where students say ‘TBH’ (to be honest) and continue with nasty messages or someone says ‘Give me a name’ and I will give you my honest opinion of them -  a name is then produced and all of the friends and people that engage in that conversation through the Sarahah app can then say whatever they like about that person completely anonymously’ explains Pete.

But why would kids open themselves up to being bullied by starting an account and sending their link out? Jordan Foster from ySafe explains; ‘Young people seek the feedback and opinions of others, just as much as adults do. They’re hoping that the feedback will be positive, so therefore they’re open to putting themselves out there to be commented on. They also seek attention, in the same way they publish photos on their other social media accounts wearing minimal clothing hoping that someone will comment that they look good, they’re hoping that people will say they’re well liked and cool via the Sarahah app’.

What can parents do?

Jordan and Pete both suggest talking to your kids, find out if they have downloaded the app or know of their peers using it. ‘Encourage them to trust their gut about how their peers perceive them, without seeking anonymous feedback that is unlikely to be truthful’ says Jordan. ‘If you suspect they may be using it to bully others, ask them how they would feel if someone was doing that to them. Kids struggle to learn empathy without the message being constantly reiterated’ Pete explains.

- Talk to your kids about Sarahah

- Encourage them to trust themselves and their friends, rather than seeking the opinions of randoms

- Reiterate the message of empathy; ask them how they would feel if someone was bullying them.

Family Zone and the team of Cyber Expertsincluding Jordan Foster and Pete Brown are here to help parents like you create a cyber safe home. Family Zone will notify you if your kids have downloaded Sarahah and block access.

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Topics: Parental Controls, Mobile Apps, Cyber Safety

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