We wrote last week about the anonymous After School app that caters to high school students. We have a number of issues with the app, not the least of which is that anonymous communications tend to be very popular with cyberbullies.
In the article last week we focused on, among other things, the fact that I was able to sign up to the page of a local high school despite the fact that the app is supposed to be for students only.
In any anonymous community, one might assume there is a risk that other members of the community aren’t who they claim to be. In the worst-case scenario, some users might be cyberbullies or worse, predators looking to do real harm. That risk has been downplayed by the reviews of the After School that we’ve seen. For example, in their review of the app, Common Sense media writes:
“The age controls are tight, too, which not only means that non-teen predators will have difficulty getting in, but it also means parents can’t monitor teens’ postings themselves.”
That seems to be consensus – that it is nearly impossible for non high school students to join a school network. That was not the case in our experience. After I selected the local high school from a list, the app asked to connect with Facebook to verify student status. I didn’t lie about my status, just clicked “OK” and was quickly connected.
That brings up a second issue with the app. While After School did make the following claim, “This does not let the app post to Facebook”, it said nothing else about what else it might do with my Facebook information. I returned to the app the following day and noticed that After School has posted for me, and included my first name and my Facebook profile photo. I didn’t sign up for that, and didn’t know it was a possibility.
Our third issue with the app is a more minor one. Users who want to access the “mature” content on the app are supposed to scan their student ID card to verify that they are an upperclassman. I have a son who is 17-year old high school student at a large school. I asked him to try it and the scan was not compatible with the code on his student I.D. Also, if he was able to scan it, there is no way to verify that it was his I.D. he was scanning.
Since that app’s introduction last year, they have made some positive changes. Some of them are described well in an article this week at ChicagoNow.
We have a number of questions:
- In theory, how is the Facebook link supposed to confirm high school student status?
- Why didn’t it work in my case?
- Shouldn’t After School clearly disclose if they are going to use my Facebook info and post for me?
For now, we strongly caution parents to keep their teens off After School. We’d like to see some answers.
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