As anonymized messaging apps top the download charts, their popularity raises the increasingly serious issue of cyberbullying. Communication service providers, network owners and operators that are conscious of this issue can play a significant role in protecting vulnerable users and strengthen their position as more than just “pipe providers”. So how can you become the “Knight in shining armor”? Well, by offering comprehensive Security as a Service.
Sarahah and the rise of anonymized messaging
Summer 2017 has seen the messaging app Sarahah rocket to the top of the download charts in Australia, Ireland, the US and the UK. Essentially it’s a social networking app that lets anyone send anonymous messages and it has caused alarm amongst parents that it is exacerbating the incidence of cyberbullying and the sharing of inappropriate content among school-age students.
Sarahah isn’t unique. It’s simply the latest in a line of apps that enable anonymous messaging, alongside predecessors like Secret, Yik Yak and Whisper. In some cases, adoption of these apps is meteoric, followed by a falling away, such as the case of Yik Yak, which has recently closed.
The dark side of anonymized messaging and the effect on children
These applications are designed with fun in mind, but the dark side is that their capability to send anonymous messages is a breeding ground for malicious behavior, which is becoming endemic in schools and colleges.
According to a survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center in the US, 34% of students had experienced cyberbullying in their lifetime (17% within the last 30 days). Four out of five of the students who were cyberbullied said they had been targets of malicious comments online, while 70% said someone spread rumors about them online. Notably, nearly two-thirds (64%) of the students who experienced cyberbullying stated that it really affected their ability to learn and feel safe at school. Indeed, you don’t have to spend a long time online to find stories of young people driven to depression, despair, sometimes violence and even to suicide, by intensive online bullying, which includes the receipt of unpleasant IMs and obscene pictures.