We first took a look at the anonymous After School app last year. At the time, we didn’t write a review for two reasons, the first being that it didn’t seem to be taking off nationally. The second, less good reason was that we couldn’t log into the app.
The app itself claims to be only for high school students, and if I remember correctly, you needed a .edu email address to log in, which I obviously don’t have. I deleted the app and promised myself that I’d come back to it if there was an indication that it was taking off.
This morning there’s a new buzz around the app thanks to an excellent Washington Post article titled Millions of teens are using a new app to post anonymous thoughts, and most parents have no idea. We decided to take another look.
If you’re a parent, the first paragraph is all you need to know about whether the After School app should be on your teen’s phone:
“Millions of teenagers in high schools nationwide are using a smartphone app to anonymously share their deepest anxieties, secret crushes, vulgar assessments of their classmates and even violent threats, all without adults being able to look in.”
We’ll have a full review in the upcoming weeks but thought we’d focus on the last part of the quoted paragraph above – “without adults being able to look in”.
After re-downloading the app, I got a message saying that is it only for students and offered a list of local schools. I chose the local high school and was directed to connect to my Facebook account to confirm that I am in fact a student. I clicked the button to connect to Facebook and after a few moments was a proud member of the Hunterdon Central Regional High School After School community. I’m not a high school student and there is no information in Facebook or elsewhere that indicates I am one. This looks like faux verification to us.
That’s kind of a big deal. The teens interacting on the app assume that they’re talking to their peers. As it turns out, they could be talking to anyone – including a predator. It’s not safe.
What has improved from the earlier iteration of the app is that they do a better job gating the adult content. The default setting is that content that is sexual or drug related is blocked from view. You need to scan the barcode (or something) on your school ID tp unlock the adult content. We’re not sure how this works – more on that later.
As we said, you can look for our full review in the coming weeks, but if your teen is already using After School, you might want to point out that everyone on there may not be who they are pretending to be.
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