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Sarahah: Dangerous to Students?

Sarahah — have you heard of it?  If not, you’ll probably want to learn about it, especially if you’re a parent or school official.  Luckily for you, we’ve done some research ourselves to determine what you need to know about this new phenomenon.
 
A little bit of history: Sarahah is a mobile app designed by Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, a developer from Saudi Arabia.  According to him, his original idea for the app was to allow workers to leave anonymous feedback for their bosses and constructive criticisms to coworkers.  But then he realized that it could be interesting for anyone to use.  Now anyone can sign up, get their own personal webpage, and write/receive anonymous messages to/from ANYONE.  There are ways to make your page private so that only people you know can write messages to you, but that doesn’t stop them from coming in completely anonymous.
Obviously, this is a big red flag for cyberbullying.  So much so that you may be wondering why anyone would even want to use this app.  Astonishingly, the app entered the App Store in June 2017 and became one of the most downloaded apps by July 2017.  It’s biggest fanbase?  Kids aged 12-17.

So what do you need to know?

We’re going to break down all the Must-Knows for parents, teachers, and school administrators so that you can help keep your children safe.  While school officials may not have control over what a student downloads onto their phone, there are still steps you can take to help students be educated on internet safety and how to handle bullies.

 

1.  Underage kids ARE using it.  The App Store rates it as 17+ but there is no way to stop someone who is underage from downloading it.  And as mentioned before, most users of the app are between the ages of 12-17.

 

2.  Sarahah can link to other popular social media apps, including Snapchat.  Probably the most popular social media app for teenagers is Snapchat.  Users of both apps can link them together so that screenshots of Sarahah messages can be seen on Snapchat stories, and so Snapchat comments can be sent through Sarahah anonymously.  This means that anyone who follows your kid’s Snapchat stories can send unmoderated comments about the photos they take of themselves without any credibility to that comment.

 

3.  The app promotes positivity.  Before sending a message to someone, “Leave a constructive message :)” appears in the message box.  When you first download the app, a message appears saying “Receive constructive anonymous messages from your friends, coworkers and family.”  Their Terms and Conditions also state that all users should commit to ethics and values and refrain from insult and abuse of the site.  Does this stop kids from sending hateful messages though?  No.

 

 

4.  You can block unwanted users from messaging you.  If you receive a negative message you can block that user from ever sending one to you again.  However, this will not allow you to find out who sent the message, nor will it let the blocked user know they’ve been blocked.  And since users cannot reply back to messages anyway, there’s no way the negative user will know they’ve been blocked.  This can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on each individual situation.[/fusion_text][/two_third][separator style_type=”none” top_margin=”20″ bottom_margin=”10″ sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=””]

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5.  You cannot delete your account through the app.  Nowhere in the Sarahah app is there an option to delete your account.  However, if you go to the actual website through a web browser, you can log in and go to Settings, then click the option of ‘Remove Account.’  This is the only way to delete the account for good.

 6.  There are hackers making money out of tricking youngsters.  Despite the point of the app being anonymous, everyone is curious as to who is sending them messages.  A scam is circulating the app with a pop-up message saying “Announcement: A lot of people have been asking for a site to reveal anonymous senders.  Now here you have it at www.sarahahexposed.com”  Once you open the website, it looks legitimate, but it is in fact fake

7.  If your account is not private ANYONE can send you messages.  Online predators love this app because it allows them to talk to anyone just by finding out usernames (which is not hard).  Make sure you keep your account ‘private’ if you are going to use it id=””]

 

Hopefully, this has given you a greater insight into what this app is and how it works.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that most teenagers are using it, and most are using it as light-hearted fun.  There have been several reports of harassment, and chances are your kid will encounter some sort of negative comment during their experience.  The best thing school officials can do is to send out a notice to parents about this app.  Parents have the most control over what their child does on their phone, and probably have no idea that this app exists.  Because there is no way to figure out who is sending mean messages, there is no way to take care of a sensitive situation head-on.  We suggest starting a conversation with your child about the good and bad qualities about this app, and letting them know to come talk to you if they ever receive mean messages.  Block the mean sender, and talk to your kid about cyberbullies, and that this behavior is not okay nor has anything to do with the victim.

If you would like to learn more about this app, check out these other sites:

Common Sense Media

Gadgets Now

Business Insider

Parent’s Guide (CNN)

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