KC Safe Online: App Sarahah sparks bullying concerns

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and thanks to smartphones, bullying can extend beyond school walls to 24/7 torment.

One smartphone app you may not have heard of allows bullies to remain anonymous. It’s called Sarahah. 

It targets adults but is gaining popularity with teens.

The idea of Sarahah is to get honest feedback from your co-workers and friends. 

A communications professor at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut said it’s the anonymous part that is highly concerning. 

“That leaves room for lots and lots of problems because anonymity is a license to be mean,” Richard Hanley said. 

But cyberbullying can occur on any social media site.

According to a recent study, 70 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 said they have seen it happen.

The author of the book “Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate” said this issue can’t be brushed under the rug. 

"When we see this cruelty online we have to step up and step in and start saying hey this isn't right,” Sue Scheff said. 

Instead of ignoring cyberbullying, major social media sites have options for reporting online abuse and even muting or blocking users. 

Some students are even countering with a trend of cyber-encouragement.

They are creating pages to spread positive comments about their peers. 

"We have to start instilling that kindness with our own keystrokes,” Scheff said. 

Parents also play a role in monitoring their child’s online activity.

The app store states that users must be 17 and older to download the Sarahah app.

You can keep younger users from downloading restricted apps by turning on parental controls in the phone's settings.

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