Thursday, December 10, 2015

AFTER SCHOOL App and Other Apps That Need Our Attention!

After School APP Icon

The "AFTER SCHOOL" App, an app created specifically for high school students, is certainly one that needs to be on the radar of parents with middle/high school students. It was created for the purpose of giving students access to a community of their school peers free of the judgmental, critical eye of adults where students can anonymously share the things they are dealing with in their lives. But despite it's creators' meaningful intent, it has become a place where students can openly bully, harass, gossip and even make threats while having little to no accountability for their actions. The site is intentionally set up so adults can't see what is being shared in the school communities. When setting up the app, it relies on their verification system that looks at a user's Facebook account to verify their student-status at a specific school. If this can't be verified through the app, then you can't access the school community, leaving parents on the outside with no way of looking in...unless a student openly shares their use of this app with them. And most of the time, parents are the last ones to know. This app has been used to bully, harass and even make threats that have led to arrests, as can be seen here. Simply take a look at the App's page in the App Store and you will see that it says you must be 17+ to download.

Brighten APP Icon
Brighten, another anonymous app with upstanding intentions, is also one to on the lookout for because of its growing popularity. It is meant to give users the ability to compliment others anonymously, hence the name "Brighten." But of course, because there is no accountability for users and posts are made anonymously, unfortunately some are using it to harass, bully and threaten. It's suggested age is 12+.

In a growing digital space where new Apps are birthed every few minutes, it's extremely difficult for even the savviest of users to keep up with what's out there. So what about parents of teens and tweens? How are we supposed to keep up? Parents today are facing the challenge of raising the most highly targeted, marketed-to generation ever, a generation that is exposed to more information and can access just about ANYTHING from the device in the palm of their hand. That's a sobering reality and it's something we (all of us-parents, teachers, kids, admins, everyone) need to be discussing frequently if we want to keep up with what's being targeted at our kids, what they are doing with it and how it's affecting them.

Some Tips for Parents of Tweens and Teens

  • Check their devices regularly and make your expectations and values clear regarding their digital lives.
  • Set up Family Sharing on iOS devices so you can know exactly which apps they are using.
  • Maintain current lists of all of their usernames/passwords for the social media sites where they actively post.
  • Talk with your kids regularly about these topics and let them know you are there to help them navigate these dangerous waters.
  • Visit Common Sense Media and subscribe to their parent e-newsletter for app descriptions, ratings, suggestions, etc. Here's CSM's review of After School
  • Talk with other parents frequently and don't be afraid to ask questions. 

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