Is Sarahah, the popular anonymous messaging app putting children at risk?
|   Aug 13, 2017
Is Sarahah, the popular anonymous messaging app putting children at risk?

When you give people a mask, they will reveal their ugliest self-an old adage is proven right by this new app called Sarahah, the most downloaded free app on iOS store in the last two months. Sarahah was on top of Apple App Store in over 30 countries in the month of  July. According to a BBC report, this has over 300 million users already and in our country 7.2 million people have signed up for its web service.

What is Sarahah app?

The apps description on Google Play Store reads that “Sarahah helps people self-develop by receiving constructive anonymous feedback”. Interestingly, Sarahah means ‘honesty’ in Arabic, though this honesty is delivered anonymously. The app is available in English as well as Arabic for iOS and Android users.

 How does Sarahah app work?

The users can either sign up either on the website or download the app from the Apple or Android play store. Then they get a shareable link to their inbox that they can pass around to friends-people have been typically using it on Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat, where people can send you direct messages anonymously. The sender knows the identity of the receiver, but the receiver will never know from whom the message came from.

 What is the purpose of Sarahah?

Sarahah was created by a developer from Saudi Arabia called ZainAlabdin Tawfiq as a way for people to share honest thoughts anonymously with their friends and contacts. Apparently the purpose of the app is to help users at work discover their areas of strength and those in need of improvement. Outside of the office, it is meant to give friends a place to communicate honestly with one another both their strengths and areas for improvement. 

Unlike traditional social networks, users cannot interact with one another directly. There is no reply mechanism, or indication of who a message is from.

Why Sarahah is a risky venture especially for children?

As a parent I believe that the potential of misuse of the Sarahah app is enormous. Even if we trust the developers’ vision -- people sending you honest messages and perhaps constructive criticism, it’s still very risky and could be a weapon for cyber bullies especially for the vulnerable children. Anonymity is an addictive drug that can be misused very badly. As humans we tend to have a very nasty and sadistic side to us which comes out at its worst when we have a mask of anonymity over our identities.

It is worth mentioning that though platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter have worked hard over the years to have people provide their true identities but they are still grappling with the menace of trolling, hate messages and even life threats. Signing up with Sarahah could means that you are deliberately exposing yourself to these threats online. Currently the users have a mixed opinion of the use of app. Some of the comments by the users’ on Google Play Store describe it as ‘‘great concept and fun’’ while another one mentions that “My friend attempted suicide because of what people were saying to her over this.” Personally I am not sure whether the comment is true or not but definitely it alarming for any parent in the world.   

The app has all the makings of becoming a breeding ground of hate and enmity.Also it appears to be the perfect recipe for depression as  it will either make you feel very good about yourself or aggravate every insecurity and every uncertainty you have ever felt harbored which is very dangerous in the case of adolescents who are still developing their self identity. We know that children are spending more time on internet than ever before are surely the worst victims of cyber-bullying.

 What can parents do?

The advent of “smart” technology has made parenting for our generation more challenging than ever before. Let’s accept the fact that we cannot stop children from accessing the internet. So let’s educate our children about cyber ethics and safety.

As parents we need to keep an eye on the websites they surf, the content they are looking up on Google. Sometimes the things that   viewed as “fun,” “normal,” and “no big deal” can be potentially dangerous. Also there needs be rationing of the gadget time by keeping a watch on what children do and don't. Ideally we should ask the children to play with their hands and legs and not with their fingers.

These days children have become increasingly isolated from the families so parental supervision of the internet usage is very important especially in the case of younger children.  Regarding this particular  app we need to talk to our kids and try to find out if they have downloaded the app or know of their peers using it. Also we need to encourage them to trust their own instinct about how their peers perceive them, without seeking anonymous feedback that is unlikely to be truthful.

As parents we need to take out time to understand social media and discuss it with our children. In addition to parental supervision, we need to equip them with everything they need to know to make wise decisions about the usage of social media when you aren’t around.


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