Dublin school warns parents over 'honesty' app that may lead to bullying

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Adrian Weckler

Irish parents are being warned by schools about a new ‘honesty’ smartphone app that is creating fears of bullying.

The app, Sarahah, has swept into Ireland, overtaking Twitter and Tinder on the Irish app charts.

It allows people to send anonymous comments to Sarahah users.

But teachers at one of Dublin’s biggest secondary schools say it is being used by some children to insult or bully others.

The city centre girls’ school, which asked not to be named for privacy reasons, has banned the Sararah app and advised parents to delete it from their childrens’ phones.

“Please check your daughter’s phone for the Sararah app,” wrote a senior school administrator to hundreds of parents. “This app is used to send anonymous messages, some of which may be nasty. Your daughters were asked to delete this app to ensure the wellbeing of all the students.”

Once someone signs up to Sarahah, they have a username at sarahah.com. If someone knows the username of a Sarahah user, they can leave unlimited anonymous messages, which pop up as notifications on the Sararah user’s smartphone. Commenters do not need to be registered on Sararah to leave comments about others.

Experts have warned that the app gathers all ‘contacts’ information from a user’s phone and uploads it to its own servers without any stated purpose.

The creator of the app, Saudi Arabian programmer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, said that Sarahah harvests contacts from users for features “that will be implemented at a later time”.

He said that these user contact lists are being uploaded “for a planned ‘find your friends’ feature,” which has been “delayed due to a technical issue”.

Launched in February, Sararah has rocketed to popularity around the world with 20 million users.

Its primary audience appears to be teenagers who screenshot compliments they receive on other social media forums such as Instagram and Snapchat. Some also invite comments by posting their Sarahah usernames on such social media.

Sarahah presents itself as an app that “helps you self-develop by receiving constructive anonymous feedback”. Its creator says that it’s a way for friends and colleagues to point out your personal strengths or weaknesses.

On social media services such as Twitter and Facebook, hashtags using #sarahah show messages that people have posted about users. Teenagers sometimes post their Sarahah usernames and ask social media followers to comment on them anonymously.

Earlier this year, a UK study into Irish teenagers found that cyberbullying is a significant contributory factor into negative perceptions about body images among young people.

The University of Chester research found that teens that are cyberbullied are more likely to think of themselves as being too fat.