UPDATE: The app is no longer available for downloading on the App Store.
Meet After School, an anonymous Whisper-like app that hit the App Store in October 2014. And of course it’s causing issues in countless schools like Yik Yak and Ask.fm did before it.
After School allows users to post anonymous messages that only other students at their school can see. It’s not limited to a location like Yik Yak, but when used by the same demographic of school kids, the results are the same: cyberbullying and threats to schools.
Claims of cyberbullying stemming from the After School app are quickly popping up: Schools across metro Detroit warned parents about it, and a gun threat posted on the app resulted in a heightened level of security and police presence earlier today at another school, MLive reports.
A student at my former high school in Michigan has even started a petition to get the app banned from the App Store. It has received over 1,500 signatures on Change.org. Following cyberbullying issues, another Michigan community took to Twitter with the hashtag #clarkstontakeastand to encourage others to delete the app.
After School needs to take a hard look at the type of problems that arose when Yik Yak was used on high school campuses. Unlike Yik Yak, After School was designed specifically for this demographic and it does not have a 17+ rating, making it much more difficult for parents to stop their teenagers from downloading it. Worse yet, users report that students can easily trick the system to allow posting to other schools.
Following a bomb threat posted on Yik Yak, the National Association of People Against Bullying reached out to the company and asked them to disable the app at middle and high schools — something that would cripple After School. Yik Yak did just that.
Yik Yak itself took steps to prevent the app from being used in schools across America through a series of geofenced safeguards that prevented the app from working in locations known to be schools. The company essentially turned off access to one of the most treasured demographics.
“Certain things should always be kept out of children’s hands,” Anna Mendez, Executive Director at the National Association of People Against Bullying, told TechCrunch at the time. “Kids are at a different developmental level than adults. Physically, the frontal lobes of their brains aren’t fully developed. That’s the part of their brain that helps them recognize future consequences from current actions. At the same time, their hormone levels are escalating. Middle school and high school are some of the toughest years where kids begin having self doubts and bullying starts becoming more violent,” she says.
Even if the app is pulled or not used, it won’t stop cyberbullying. It will sadly move from this platform to another. Yet everything possible needs to be done to curb the hate. Apple, Google and other app distributors need to take a stronger stance on ratings based around apps that facilitate behavior known to be harmful to minors. Even that will only stop the honest bullies.
After School’s publisher did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment.