In the same month that a mother in Australia has started an online petition for the social networking app Sarahah, and similar apps, to be banned, Kowhai Intermediate, an Intermediate school in Auckland, have been in the news for banning social media at school and encouraging parents to ban it at home.
If you’ve not heard of Sarahah but you have children or teenagers on social media this is an App you need to know about. Sarahah pitches its use as ‘helping people self-develop by providing constructive anonymous feedback.’ (You can see where this is going already can’t you.) The app store and google play review pages are full of people recounting death threats and harassment.
Originally designed for corporate workspaces so employees could provide anonymous feedback to employers, now teens are using it to essentially pass anonymous notes. Commonsense media (an organisation that provides education and advocacy to families to promote safe technology and media for children) recommend that this app is one to avoid as it makes it all too easy to be cruel.
As a digital business, we are always interested in technology, but we find technology like this deeply concerning. In NZ we have one of the highest rates of teenage depression and suicide in the world (a report by UNICEF in 2017 found NZ”s youth suicide rate was the highest of 41 OECD and EU countries). One of the reasons touted for this alarming statistic is our equally alarming record of bullying in schools, exacerbated by high rates of family violence, child abuse and child poverty. Add in cyber bullying and we’re on a fast track to no return.
Technology should be used to be empowering, helpful, make our lives better not worse. If you’re a parent keep yourself up to date with what your kids are doing on their phones and other devices. There are lots of resources out there that can help both in terms of knowing what’s safe and what to do if you think your child is in trouble. netsafe.org.nz has lots of information, as well as commonsense media mentioned above. Or for a comprehensive guide for parents check out this comprehensive guide.