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Parents, students concerned about new apps sweeping schools

Nowadays, a new school year means new apps keeping kids’ eyes glued to their phones. ABC 57 took a closer look at two that are causing concern for students and parents alike—Sarahah and Yellow.

“I’m on my phone a lot,” said Plymouth High School Senior, Cortni Cook.

Most teens would say the same thing, and now their eyes are glued to a new app—Sarahah.

“You just put it on your social media accounts and people can say stuff anonymously to you,” said Plymouth High School junior, Clay Hilliard.

Once a user signs up on the app, anyone, including strangers, can send him or her anonymous messages.

So far, Clay has been liking the ones he’s received, like “you’re super nice…wish we talked more.”

“I think I like that it gives power to people to be able to use it and say what they would like to say especially if it’s something good, and I guess if they want to get something off their chest, but I guess when it comes to bullying, I would dislike the power of people having the opportunity to say something hurtful,” he said.

That’s exactly why junior Breanna Dillard deleted the app days after downloading it!

“Kids have been getting bullied on it and everything….It’s anonymous, so nobody knows who’s saying it, so like people can’t do it to somebody’s face. They have to do it through the internet to bash on people, so I don’t like it,” said Breanna.

She’s seen messages saying ‘you’re so trashy’ and even ‘go kill yourself.’

“It’s another reason why I don’t have it. It’s just because I am who I am, I don’t really care if one person says anonymously if I’m mean or I’m snobby or whatever they want to say,” said Cortni.

“When you’re anonymous you can say anything obviously and just let it fly, so we’ve dealt with these apps before, so I can’t see any good from it in my opinion,” said Plymouth Schools Director of Safety and Security, Ted Brown.

His opinion stems from his experience as the Plymouth Schools’ Director of Safety and Security, a 20-year veteran of the police force, and the father of two Plymouth High School students!

A cyber crimes expert tested out the app, too.

“I sent myself a message bullying myself. I blocked myself and then with one minor tweak, I continued right on bullying myself without stopping, so the method where it actually stops users who are using it inappropriate is wildly poor and terribly ineffective,” said Cyber Crimes expert with the St. Joseph County Police Department, Eric Tamashasky.

Still, Plymouth School officials say don’t blame the method, blame the messenger.

“We want to make sure that we don’t ever make a statement that social media causes cyber bullying or that social media causes any of the other things. We don’t believe that. We just know that our students need to learn to be responsible citizens, same way they needed to learn to be responsible citizens fifty years ago when there wasn’t cell phones in their hands,” said the schools’ Director of Guidance, Aimee Portteus.

Senior Cortni Cook’s keeping the phone but ditching the app.

“I just think it’s like another little phase and another way for people to care about what other people think,” she said.

Another newer app that lets people share what they think about you is Yellow.

Folks on social media are calling it ‘Tinder for teens,’ and to sign up, a user has to provide personal info, like a phone number, birthday, picture.

The cyber crimes expert said anyone can easily access that personal information when a user connects it with other social media accounts.

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