‘Sarahah’ app becoming cyberbullying platform

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An anonymous app called Sarahah that was designed to give workplace feedback is instead becoming a platform for cyberbullying.

The app, which was designed by a Saudi Arabian developer, on the surface appears to have good intentions by giving coworkers the ability to provide open feedback while remaining anonymous. But experts say the app is just another example of how people can abuse technology and the internet to attack others.

“Telling you how I really feel about working with you is just not acceptable in certain Arabic countries, so that was why it was created. But kids started to pick up on it as an anonymous way to say what I really feel about you,” said Chris McKenna, the founder of ProtectYoungEyes.com.

McKenna said that can quickly spiral into a vicious cycle of cyberbullying.

“We always have a bottom line. Anything anonymous is not meant for kids,” McKenna said.

That being said, he isn’t surprised kids got a hold of the app.

“As we go and spend time in elementary schools, we always ask groups of kids — third-, fourth- and fifth-graders — how many of you have Instagram and Snapchat, and inevitably half the room raises their hand,” McKenna said.

McKenna’s website is designed to give parents and kids the tools to navigate and protect against the dangerous online world. He said it’s about setting limits: You can turn off the app setting on iPhones and iPads and have open conversations with your kids so they’ll feel comfortable asking you when they’re curious about something rather than going online for answers.

Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan Executive Director Christy Buck says direct conversations with kids are crucial for not just their development, but also for adults’ growth.

“We’ve lost the ability to do face-to-face comments to people and that is taking away that human piece, the human piece where you can really engage in a conversation,” Buck said.

Buck added that monitoring any changes in your children’s behavior is key in making sure they are mentally healthy.

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