Description: After School follows the current app trend towards anonymity. The app’s founder says that After School gives teens a chance to “express themselves without worrying about any backlash or any repercussions.”
Anonymity allows students to ask difficult, uncomfortable questions anonymously and to more directly address issues such as depression, how to come out as gay to one’s parents or how to navigate the daily challenges of teen life. This is in contrast to the curated identities many teens cultivate on popular social sites Facebook or Instagram.
Category: Social Media
APP Store rating: 17+ for all of the regular reasons (infrequent/mild sexual content, nudity, drug use, reference, profanity, etc.)
This app is very popular at certain schools, and the app’s founders estimate somewhere between 2-10 million current users (Dec. 2015).
Age Verification – The app starts by verifying that you’re a real high school student by connecting to a Facebook profile using interests, friends and birthday as validation before it allows you to post within that high school’s group. Then, you can “unlock” more mature sexual, drug and other content (considered 17+) by scanning in your driver’s license. Interestingly, although I’m an adult, a large number of my Facebook friends are teens. This allowed me to create a Caledonia High School profile, even though my year of birth shows as in the 1970’s.
Be Nice – The app claims to have an algorithm that automatically blocks posts with certain verbiage, although a recent Washington Post article refutes that claim using screenshots submitted by students. The app’s terms and conditions tell users to “keep it fun. Keep it safe.” Due to student and parent backlash, Apple removed the app from its store in early 2015, but the app was re-released in April 2015 with many additional safety features.
Looks Fake – Some users have claimed that the app has a lot of fake posts. Meaning, After School will generate unnecessary drama by making fictitious posts shared anonymously. The app claims to have a whole team reviewing content 24/7, permanently banning users who abuse the “be nice” policy. There is also a support email that claims to reply within 24 hours if a problematic post is discovered.
Anonymity just makes us nervous. If we’re supposed to “train” kids how to use the internet, our younger users (ages 4-15) just won’t be ready for this app. Parents beware – it’s just a high-risk game when there’s no accountability, even with all of the controls in place. On one hand, it gives students an outlet for the tough stuff. On the other hand, it encourages hiding behind a screen for big issues. Consider these issue carefully!