'Do not let your children download this app'

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Just when you thought it was safe for your kids to be online (just kidding, we never thought that), there is a new app designed to offer your child "constructive messages" from their peers. The catch? Those offering the feedback are totally anonymous.

Since it was released in June, Sarahah (which loosely translates to "honesty" in Arabic) has been downloaded millions of times. That's after already being a massive hit in the Middle East.

The premise is pretty simple: the user downloads the app or goes to the website and creates an account. Then they're given a unique link to their page, which shows the user's image and full name.

Then anyone can leave a comment on that page. They don't even have to be registered on the site (although users can change their preferences to only allow registered users, for whatever that's worth).


Photo: iTunes

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Sarahah sells itself as a way for people to discover their "strengths and areas for improvement".

And the way the app was originally used in Saudi Arabia – as a feedback tool for employees to leave comments about their bosses, I can see how that would have worked.

But opening this app up to teenagers? Are they serious?


Comments on social media where you have to identify yourself can be brutal enough, but add anonymity to the mix and we are surely looking down the barrel of bullying of the worst kind.

"Any messaging app or social media app that markets itself as being a place to post anonymous messages or posts will lend itself to anonymous bullying," cyber expert Leonie Smith told ABC News. She says similar apps like Yik Yak and Secret failed because they failed to handle the volume of online abuse they allowed.

Sarahah does have a button to report abuse, but with commenters not being required to register, it's hard to know exactly what kind of recourse there might be, apart from removing the offensive post.

One reviewer on Google Play said, "Kids are using this to bully other kids. There's no way of telling who they are so they think they can say anything. My 13 year old daughter had a deluge of sickening abuse and sexual harassment. I've deleted it off her phone. The devs need to put more protection in place."

Leonie Smith advises the best defence is to not allow your children to use Sarahah, and to ban similar apps as well. And she also says that closely supervising your child's online time is still one of the best things you can do as a parent.

"Accountability is good for civility," says Leonie, "Feedback sites are dubious places for fair feedback when commentators are anonymous."