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Popular Smartphone App Accused Of Facilitating Cyberbullying

| by Karin Sun
After School App.After School App.

A popular smartphone app has raised concerns of cyberbullying among school officials and parents in Louisiana, KNOE 8 reports.

The growing popularity of the After School app, a social media application downloaded to smartphones that allows users to post anonymously and send explicit or crude photos and videos, has recently caused area schools in West Monroe, Louisiana, to express concern that the app is promoting cyberbullying.

On Oct. 27, school officials at Claiborne Christian School in West Monroe sent out an email to parents and faculty warning them about how the app, and others like it, may contribute to online bullying.

Lee Taylor, the school's headmaster, told KNOE 8 the school has not received any reports of cyberbullying related to the app yet, but administrators have decided to be proactive in addressing potential problems.

"Schools should not just be sending emails whenever there's a crisis, or some major issue," Taylor said. "School's should be proactive. We should be the one's saying, 'Hey, parents, we need you guys. Hopefully you need us.'"

"We're working together," he added. "That's how we view it. That's really where the email came from."

To access the app, users must sign in to their Facebook page and verify the school they attend. If they do not do this, then the app will lock them out so that they can't see what is being posted. This procedure reportedly helps protects students' privacy from parents and other adults, but further increases the likelihood of cyberbullying, KNOE 8 reports.

A random check at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 showed that 36 Claiborne students were using the app during school hours.

This is not the first time the After School app has raised concerns for school officials.

In December 2014, Apple pulled the app from its iTunes store after complaints from various school districts across the country drew attention to the possibility of cyberbullying arising from students' use of the app, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Cory Levy, the co-creator of the After School app, said that the app was created to provide a discussion forum where students can discuss issues anonymously, and was not intended to support bullying.

"It gives people the freedom to express themselves," he told WIBW in September.

Levy added that users who experienced cyberbullying could remove content immediately using the app's "report" button, and that the maker of the app works with law enforcement to address threats.

Online bullying affected 42 percent of school-age children in the U.S. in the 2003-04 school year, according to statistics published by iSAFE.

Sources: KNOE 8, Detroit Free Press, WIBW, iSAFE / Photo credit: KNOE 8