As soon as the internet started there was the opportunity to comment anonymously.
At first this seemed to be a good thing, giving voice to those who may otherwise not have the opportunity to express concerns that were real and valid, and which could have a useful impact on making change.
However, like with everything, anonymity is also open to abuse. And one of the ways in which users abuse it is through cyber bullying.
The opportunity for cyber bullying has been increased even more so recently with the advent of a new App that invites ‘anonymous honesty’ and parents are rightly concerned about it as their youngsters experience misuse of the App that was originally supposed to be for improvement and gain.
One such App is Sarahah. Sarahah was originally a website, intended to give employees the opportunity to give each other and managers etc useful feedback. The originator Zain Abidin Tawfiq saw its potential for personal use as well and the App was created during the summer. It immediately became viral and gained intense popularity among youngsters.
However, many parents are now concerned that it has become another readily available platform for cyber bullying (useful info here) as it has given the youngsters even more opportunity to leave comments about each other without identifying who they are.
Although this ‘anonymous honesty’ could be a positive opportunity to help each other with issues that might be difficult to talk about face to face, the downside is that it’s far more popular as a tool to get at each other, make detrimental comments and post insults and offensive remarks.
In this report the NSPCC says that although there’s no researched link between depression and online bullying, it certainly intensifies the pressure on young people, particularly those who already may feel vulnerable. Teens have been quick to engage with the App hoping to find positive feedback about themselves, but instead find the opposite is more the case. Thus it is facilitating online bullying.
Web experts suggest that parents are cautious. That they raise discussions about these Apps and remain observant and involved with their teens’ online life; as much as they would be engaged in their physical life. They should initiate conversations about their youngster’s online friends, their activity online, and show interest in what they do, equally sharing their own activities so that it becomes a culture of open honesty in the family about what you’re each up to. This will help keep an open dialogue about the issue of online anonymity and honesty, and whether it’s always a good thing.
It’s also worth raising the question; if we can’t be open, honest and own up about our online life, are the activities we’re engaged with healthy and wise?