The latest application is called After School and it is, as far as I can tell, pretty abhorrent. The expressed purpose of the app is to allow students ". . . a place to publish thoughts without fear that a parent or relative will see the content." Essentially, the developers have found a way to make money off of bullying and harassment. The developers claim that they have established "safeguards" to prevent inappropriate content or use, but it seems to me that the content would not need to be anonymous unless it involves inappropriate behavior or use.
Having said that, it is not my purpose in this blog to editorialize or to tell you what you should think about social media. I intend to provide you with information and hope that you will access the information, think critically about your student's use of social media, develop your own beliefs about social media and, above all, talk with your children and monitor their social media activity. Parenting IS NOT an invasion of privacy. Our children are GROWING into adulthood and, as parents, it is our responsibility to provide them with the benefit or our experience. We should listen to them, learn about the world they live in, and provide boundaries based on our experience and values. It is our job as parents to help our children grow SAFELY into adulthood and that means we have to be aware, we have to guide, and we have to let them grow up.
The After School App is not the only negative app available to students; it is just the app that is popular right now. Currently, we have over 400 students between the ages of 13-19 in Comstock Park with active accounts on this app. That's roughly 50% of our students age 13-19. That means that if you have a student between the ages of 13-19, there is about a 50% chance that they have this app. The app is typically accessed through wireless devices (phones or tablets) and can be downloaded from your particular providers app store (apple or android). I've linked a brief review article about the app below for your information and review.
Techcrunch Review of AfterSchool App
I encourage every parent to seek education about the social media apps available to students - the information is abundant on-line. I encourage all of you to sit down with your children and talk with them about their electronic devices. What apps are they using? Have them give you a tour of the apps and explain the purpose of each app - why do they have them? Talk about your beliefs regarding anonymous posting and saying things about others on-line - what do you feel is okay and what do you feel is not. I think it is important also to talk with children about the potential legal ramifications of on-line behavior. Nothing is anonymous - if the behavior rises to the level of legal harassment, it can be accessed and there are laws that require significantly difficult outcomes for students engaged in on-line harassment or other on-line behaviors that disrupt the school setting and/or violate the rights of others.
The on-line world our children are growing up in is new and we have an obligation to learn as much as we can in an effort to guide and keep them safe. We also, as parents, have an obligation to talk with our children about our personal moral values and ethics and how they relate to this kind of behavior. Is it okay to post anonymously? That is a question that each of us must answer for ourselves and that answer is based on our personal morals, values, and ethics. As parents, it is our responsibility to guide our children in the development of these characteristics.
As a school, we will do what we can to educate our students about the productive uses of social media and prevent social media behavior from having a negative impact on our students or school culture.