Websites and apps that guarantee the user anonymity when communicating and posting are unhealthy and potentially dangerous for children. A common thread reported to me by schools everywhere is that the social and personal online issues their students face more often than not originate from programs that provide a perception of anonymity to the user.
WHAT DO THEY DO
The programs provide a communication and/or posting environment whereby users can say and do whatever they want to another under the promised belief that nobody will ever find out who they are. On the surface these programs aren’t inherently evil however, this functionality has been proven to attract those whose mission it is to expose others to the highest level of abhorrent abuse. The programs are generally used on mobile devices such as smart phones, Ipods and tablets that have Internet capabilities.
These programs, thankfully, aren’t mainstream like Facebook and Instagram, they are fringe programs that usually come and go with limited popularity. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram don’t operate under the promise of anonymity to the user, they encourage users to be themselves. Sure, someone can use those programs to try and remain anonymous, to do the wrong thing, however that takes a bit of time and effort, these anonymity sites are designed specifically for this purpose.
WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW
As parents, carers and adults, we may not understand why a child would frequent a site where others could drag them down or why they would stay there. Ten children may enter one of these anonymity programs, 9 will identify that the site is pointless and achieves nothing and will leave but one child will remain. It is most likely the case that this child is the one that least needs to stay there.
Whether we fully understand this or not, we accept that these types of programs can lead to self-harm and suicide. It’s simply not worth the risk. I have spoken to many adults who have visited such sites, one stating:
“My daughter showed me this site, I watched what people were typing and what was going on for about 5 minutes and I had to stop, it made my physically ill how people were treating others, it was disgusting”
Children use the Internet for different reasons than adults do. They interpret information differently and they are at a differing developmental stage. Information that may not have a huge effect on us adults could have a devastating effect on young people. Children have said to me that they stay in that program waiting for positive comments or information to counter the bad or they think it may get better. Those positive comments rarely come and the exposure to hateful, inappropriate, violent and hurtful content continues compounding the negative effects.
In a perfect world this functionality would be fine, speaking our mind freely without embarrassment. Unfortunately, human nature amongst some is such that this platform provides them an opportunity to falsely mask their low self-esteem, needs and fears by denigrating others, including our children if given the opportunity. Simple advice to parents, keep your children away from these sites.
For further reading, a number of these sites have been fully reviewed within Internet Safe Families.
SOME EXAMPLES OF ANONYMISER SITES
WHAT WE NEED TO DO
- Steer our children away from these programs – There are limitless programs available that are healthier for our children.
- Applications can be identified by their logo
- Google search and read up – Avoid anonymity functionality
- Communicate with our children regarding the apps they are using – They may not realise the danger
- Changes in mood or personality could be attributed to one of these types of programs