A brand new social media app called After School is gaining popularity among teenage students in schools nationwide.
After School allows students to communicate anonymously in message boards associated with their high school. The users verify their age via Facebook or by scanning their student ID card. But because it's designed in a way that parents and administrators do not have access to it, the app has raised concerns among families and educators.
According to Chris Duque, a cyber security expert, it is crucial for parents to be familiar with the app and to have access to it:
"So the parents actually have the upper hand and demanding the child to show them and sit down with the child and have them explain what is an app what does it do who this person is and so forth."
Duque also emphasized the importance of communication in the family regarding the internet safety. He encouraged parents to talk to their children to find out which apps they use and to identify together whether they could be dangerous. The cyber security expert confirmed that apps such as After School could also have a positive impact, especially when the teenager had some emotional issues related to sexuality or drugs for example.
In an interview with Karin Johnson of the Cincinnati's WLWT5, Sherrika Spain, a mother of two teenage boys, said that given cases of sexting and cyber-bullying, parents should have access to apps like After School.
The Department of Education confirmed its familiarity with the app and said it was a cause for concern because it can be used for bullying.
When reached for comment by KHON2's Alexander Zannes, the app designers confirmed they had a zero tolerance policy toward bullying or threats. Jeff Collins, After School's vice president of communications also added that the app featured non-stop human moderation and monitoring of posts as well as parental control. On top of that, After School provides emergency notification system, live counseling for teenagers in need. Collins confirmed:
"After School employs dozens of industry leading safety measures to help provide a safe and secure online space for students."
After School was established in 2014 by Michael Callahan and Cory Levy. It is a private social media app that allows teenagers to connect and communicate with fellow students from the same high school, reads the official website.
Levy's and Callahan's aim was to create a safe online environment where students can be themselves, make new friends from the same high school, expand their network and get engaged in positive activities – not only online but offline as well. Students are free to decide whether to reveal their names or stay anonymous.
After School also encourages teenagers to contribute to the society by partnering with DoSomething.org, one of the leading global organizations for young people, which has nearly 6 million members in 131 countries worldwide. Together with After School, it provides teenagers with an opportunity to participate in diverse volunteer projects worldwide, from fighting poverty to ending gender discrimination and improving health.