Police are warning parents about a new app that lets teenagers share comments, photos and information with their classmates.
But all photos, comments or posts are made anonymously. After School creators say the anonymity allows students to freely express themselves, but police worry it could turn into an easy way to bully other students or post inappropriate photos.
“It really opens the doors for cyberbullying,” Shelbyville Police Department Lt. Michael Turner said. “Now we’ve given them a platform to anonymously bully people without any repercussions because we don’t know who’s doing it.”
Turner, a cyber crimes officer, said a Shelbyville parent approached him within the past month about the After School app because the anonymity concerned her.
At the time, he had not heard of the app. And neither have local school officials and police, but more than 2,000 people are using it in Johnson County, according to the app’s home page. People are asked to verify that they are a high school student by taking a photo of their student ID or letting the app check their Facebook profile.
As many as 10 million people have signed up for the app, according to a news release from After School. The description of the app says it provides a forum for current high school students to share memories, give details about upcoming parties or talk about what is happening during the school day. The description also says: “We have a zero-tolerance policy against cyber-bullying. Please remember to be positive.”
But the app does not hold students accountable for what they say online, and by letting them be anonymous, it provides a way for students to post inappropriate comments or photos about others, Turner said.
“If you have to say something, stand behind what you say,” Turner said.
As of this week, 587 students at Shelbyville High School were registered on the app, which is nearly 50 percent of the student body, Turner said. He talked to parents of high school students, and most had never heard of the app, but their child admitted to having it on their phone, Turner said.
No parents have reported harassment or bullying as a result of the app, Turner said, but he is trying to alert parents now before the app creates issues between students.
In the past, Turner has given presentations to students about how to use cellphones and social media safely, mentioning the common sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Snapchat, where students can send photos for 10 seconds or less before they disappear, was always an app he suggests students avoid, he said. But after discovering After School, this is the top app that he will warn students about in the future, Turner said.
“It’s kind of a hyped-up version of Snapchat,” Turner said.
More than 2,000 Johnson County students are using After School, according to the app. Here’s a look at how many students at each school use it:
Center Grove: 326 students
Clark-Pleasant: 479 students
Edinburgh: 127 students
Franklin: 528 students
Greenwood: 452 students
Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson: 110 students
Source: After School app home screen
Here’s what the After School app is all about:
What it’s used for: A public forum for students to share feelings, compliments and information to their peers anonymously
Concerns from police: Since users can remain anonymous, the app could lead to cyberbullying or posting inappropriate photos of other students, said Lt. Michael Turner, the cyber crimes officer with the Shelbyville Police Department.