A new app is causing concern among parents and child protection charities, amid warnings that it provides a platform for cyberbullying.
Sarahah – meaning “honesty” in Arabic – encourages anonymous “constructive comments” when you register and share your link on social media.
You can also comment anonymously on your friends if you know their link. Sarahah is immensely popular throughout the middle east.
It was written by a Saudi programmer, Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq.
It’s now becoming a phenomenon in the UK and in the United States where it reached Number 1 in the Apple download charts last August.
But fears that vulnerable teenagers at risk from bullying and suicide are concerning parents and children’s organisations.
Similar apps have been and gone. A teenager was found hanged earlier this year after allegedly being bullied on a similar app called Sayat.Me, which was shut down in May.
The App Store has reviews suggesting that Sarahah is being used for cyberbullying.
What is Sarahah?
Users sign up for Sarahah either on the website or by downloading the app on Android or iOS. They are provided with a link to share on social media.
Anyone who clicks the link can provide anonymous comments of ANY KIND. Although the app does ask you to "Leave a constructive message :)"
Users can even add a photo to their profile.
Lots of Sarahah users are even sharing the anonymous feedback on their Facebook pages.
For these reasons, Sarahah is not recommended for children according to the US-based Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organisation offering trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices.
“Users can choose not to have their name or profile picture appear in the app’s search or receive messages from unregistered users, but they must opt out to make this happen. If they don’t, the name and photo they use to register will appear if other users search for them”, the organisation warned in the Huffington Post.
How to stay safe using Sarahah
The NSPCC has released guidelines to help you keep your child safe whilst using Sarahah:
- Talk to your child regularly about what they are doing on Sarahah. Let them know they can come to you or another trusted adult if they’re feeling worried or upset by anything they have seen.
- Explore the site with your child. Understand why they like using Sarahah and make sure they know what they can do to keep themselves safe.
- Agree rules about what’s okay and what isn’t when using sites, apps and games. You can use our Family Agreement template to help you get started.
- Manage your technology and use the settings available to keep your child safe.
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Apps that allow anonymous comments can be worrying as they could potentially be misused by online bullies to send abusive or upsetting messages.
We’d encourage children using Sarahah not to share their username publicly to limit who can communicate with them on the app.
“Our advice for parents is to talk to your child regularly about what they are doing on apps like Sarahah and encourage them to speak to you if they see something upsetting.
Any parent who wants advice on keeping children safe online can contact the NSPCC and O2 helpline on 0808 800 5002.”
Sarahah users can opt out of anonymous posting but this is not a default.