Here we go again…a new social media app that is taking the teenage technology world by storm. And, according to the kids (and parents) who have been talking about it in my office, it’s a pretty sad and hurtful storm.
It’s called Sarahah, which means “honesty” in Arabic. It was released in June of 2017, and it purports to help you “discover your strengths and areas for improvement by receiving honest feedback from your employees and your friends in a private manner.” It was developed to be used in the workplace to give co-workers a platform for anonymous constructive criticism. But, of course, teenagers have gotten their hands on it. And, of course, that word “anonymous” is never constructive when used online with the adolescent population.
Sarahah is currently the number one app in thirty countries, including the US, UK and France, with more than 250 million visitors. It works with other social media platforms, including Snapchat. Kids are not only sending anonymous messages, but the app allows them to take screenshots of comments and share them on their Snapchat accounts. On Common Sense Media, the age recommendation from parents is 15+. From kids, it’s 18+. That says a lot right there.
At Raising Boys and Girls, we talk a lot about how important it is to teach kids responsible technology use. We believe in starting small, and then letting the rope out gradually as they make good decisions in this arena. We think it’s important to have conversations and contracts around gadgets and social media platforms. And we work with parents, in both parenting classes and in our counseling offices, about allowing kids to have some of those apps that make us a little nervous, when the kids prove that they’re ready and responsible enough to have them. But, as a counselor to girls in this technology saturated age, I don’t ever think there’s a reason for a teenager to have an app where others can make anonymous comments. I just don’t believe teenagers are perusing the internet to offer life-giving encouragement to each other. Maybe, there are a few. But, as we all know, that one hurtful comment has much more powerful and lasting impact than all the positives put together.
As one user on the app store said, “If you are weak hearted, this is not the app for you.” The teenagers we love aren’t weak hearted. But your child’s confidence…your son’s sense of who he is and your daughter’s belief in who God has made her to be is so fragile in this season. And the words of their peers have immense power. We can’t protect them nearly as much as we’d like, but we can do our homework and keep a few things out of their minds and off their phones. We’d recommend Sarahah being one of those. For more help in terms of teaching and safeguarding your children in the technological world, follow along with Technology Tuesday’s and pick up a copy of Taming the Technology Monster at Amazon.