Part of my job as the editor of a parenting website is to keep parents informed about dangerous apps their kids may be using on social media, and it’s something I do not take lightly. It’s challenging though, because of the speed with which new apps are developed and the lengths which both teens and the app developers go to to keep these apps flying under parents’ radar. So, despite the fact that it’s been around for several years, I am just now hearing about and telling you about the After School app and why it’s bad, bad news for your kiddo.
Like, the After School app is REALLY bad news. SO bad, in fact, that it’s been banned from the Apple app store several times, mostly because teens have used it multiple times to make threats of violence at school (but always “cleans up its act” enough to get reinstated). The Washington Post wrote an article about the After School App and nailed the inherent problem: “Because it is designed to be accessible only to teenagers, many parents and administrators have not known anything about it.”
Photo: After School App
So, what IS the After School app?
The After School app is a vehicle that allows students to post videos, comments, and photos on a message board specifically for THEIR high school (handy, I mean DANGEROUS location features automatically determine which school your student should belong to) without identifying themselves (meaning, anonymously – HUGE red flag!). So yeah, you can use the After School app to say whatever you want, about whatever or whomever you want to, without penalty. AWESOME. Or not.
Why the After School app is dangerous for your child
There are a number of things that make the After School app dangerous for your child. Like, I LITERALLY could go on for 5,000 words on this, but I’ve narrowed it down to just a few (and if these aren’t enough for you to delete it off your child’s phone, then you might need a parenting class. Seriously.)
1. The After School app is designed so that ONLY teens have access. It is designed to EXCLUDE parents.
To get an After School app account, you have to connect a Facebook account, which will verify your age to ensure that you’re not an adult. This may sound good in theory, as it should keep creepy adults off the app. However, it’s very, very bad, as it also excludes vigilant parents from using their Facebook accounts to sign up and monitor what goes on on their child’s school message board. Of course, parents COULD just create a fake Facebook account and use THAT to sign up…but so could adult predators looking to get information on or God forbid, CONNECT with your child. And predators being predators, I am QUITE sure they do. The After School app feigns security for your child but it can do VERY little to protect them. Case en pointe…
2. Cyber bullying is rampant on the After School app.
The Washington Post profiled the app and interviewed Mya Bianchi, who was 15 when someone used After School app to torment her. “At first it was people saying nice things and complimenting others, and then it turned into bullying,” she says. Things got very bad for her personally when someone posted her phone number on her school’s message board with instructions to contact her for photos. Using a bikini emoji and a wink emoji, the person who posted Mya’s number made it clear what KIND of photos to ask for, and Mya began receiving scores of harassing messages. It got so bad she had to have her phone number changed. Cyber bullying, as I’ve discussed ad nauseum, is rampant on social media, and the After School app is a perfect vehicle for it. Mya’s case is bad, but I’ve no doubt that much, much worse cyber bullying has occurred on this app. While one of the app’s founders, Cory Levy, said After School gives teens a chance to “express themselves without worrying about any backlash or any repercussions,” he conveniently leaves out the fact that kids who do NOTHING WRONG, like Mya, are experiencing SERIOUS repercussions from their peers who use the app to bully others.
Some lovely screen shots from the After School app. Photo: TechCrunch
3.The After School app;s filters and moderators don’t work well enough
The After School app purports to use filters so that users under 17 can’t see any adult content and so bullying comments will be flagged and not discoverable, but… a quick read of different parental reviews of the app show that they just do not work to keep our kids safe. One parent of a 15-year-old told Common Sense Media,
“I’m not sure who’s monitoring it because my daughter is 15 and the app was showing short porn videos that other students posted. If the students write their own post they can choose pornographic images and videos to post along with their comment. These images are provided by the app. It’s disgusting and I can’t believe this is allowed. After School is providing porn to underage children. I’ve also seen several posts that kids post about other children saying that they want to do certain things to them. It’s sick. They say they review each post so they should be personally held responsible for the trauma that these children experience as they are bullied, harassed and subjected to porn. By the way, the version I am viewing is the “edited” version of the app. If my daughter had access to the 17+ content I’m not sure what she would be able to view.”
Yeah, sounds REAL safe to me. Another parent complained that the child’s contact information was being used by the app to send messages to that child’s contacts (another reason to not let a child accept an app’s “Terms of Service”!!) This parent says:
“Gains access to names and phone numbers from users contacts. It is aimed at kids so it is asking minors for other minors contact info. The app then sends the new contact text messages. The site claims to be healthy and moderated but it is full of sexual innuendo and imagery. Also, it is anonymous and anonymous apps have a long history of sheltering the worst of human behavior. This is no different.”
If you need proof, do a Google images search for After School app and you will see plenty of screen shots you wish you had not seen. YUCK. And I am ONLY talking about text things kids have written, not even photos. It’s disgusting.
Bottom line: the After School app, like ALL anonymous apps, is a danger to your child. But the added component of purposely restricting parents and allowing ANYTHING to be posted about your child makes it especially so. Check out your kid’s phone and if they have After School, delete that and DON’T look back!
—->Read this next: Not Just SnapChat: 6 More Dangerous Apps Parents Need to Know About.