A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the social-networking app Burnbook allows teens to post anonymously in the school community they select. School choices are populated from geolocation data of nearby schools. Posters must give their phone numbers, and IP addresses are recorded so that threatening or harassing posts can be traced. Still, the content is rife with profanity and sexual innuendo, and the terms of service state that users should be 18 or older. Anonymous social media is fertile ground for cyberbullying, and this app already has earned a reputation for just that. This is not an app for kids.
What's it about?
The Rules of the Book, which users must agree to before reading or posting, are 1). You are responsible for the content you upload.; 2). No nudity or violence.; and 3). Don't harass other people. The next screen warns that "if you break the rules, your account will be removed and you may be help legally accountable." Users must then give access to their location so they can choose a school from the auto-generated list. From there, they can read anonymous posts. To post their own comments, pictures, videos, audio, or posts, users must enter their phone numbers.
Is it any good?
The fact that BURNBOOK takes its name from the mean-spirited gossip-starting book in the movie Mean Girls is a clue that this isn't a friend-making social media experience for teens. The app made headlines after kids posted threats concerning enough that schools locked down for investigation. As a result, measures were taken that don't make the experience much better for kids: They can post comments about others anonymously, but their IP addresses are tracked so they can be held accountable for what they post. Some kids have tried to reclaim the app with positive posts, but it hasn't stopped the overall culture of cruelty. Ultimately, anonymity isn't so anonymous in the cyberworld, and real people get hurt, so encourage kids to steer clear of the hate bait.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the background of burn books or slam books -- which have been around for years -- and how social media makes the impact of unkind or hateful words even more damaging.
To learn more about cyberbullying, take a look at our parenting resource full of information -- for the bully, the bullied, and bystanders.
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