Here we go again.
Parents, be on the lookout for yet another app growing in popularity among teens offering a forum to post comments to a local community under the guise on anonymity. It’s called “Burnbook” and it’s been getting quite a bit of news coverage recently because of cyberbullying incidents, including one in which a student was so fed up with the bullying that occurred on the app, they posted a threat to bring a gun to school.
The term “Burn Book” comes from the 2004 teen movie Mean Girls. In the movie, the teens create a book titled “Burn Book” containing yearbook pictures of fellow classmates with hurtful, hateful comments under them. So it’s not a stretch to assume that an app modeled after that is an open invitation to publicly write hateful things about other people. Unfortunately, it seems that’s exactly what kids and teens are doing with it.
Burnbook is a free app available for iOS and Android and here’s a description directly from the iTunes app store:
Burnbook conveniently connects you with your community. Join a community to anonymously post pictures and text. Selectively blur parts of photos to hide those not so flattering moments. Save memorable moments to your device using the one-tap screenshot counter. Ultimately you, the Burnbook community, will decide through votes and comments what will stay and what must go!
Jokes, fails, wins, sightings, shout outs, revelations, proclamations and confessions – they all happen on Burnbook. Together, we can keep a secret. Without further interruption, welcome to the future of Social Networking. Welcome to Burnbook!
As a result of recently bullying reports creators of the app responded by adding to the description a note about the fact that they do track your IP address:
YO, READ THIS BEFORE USING BURNBOOK:
Make no mistake about it, Burnbook is a sick app. It has an unreal amount of potential. But before you download and use it, I want you to remember this: we keep track of your IP address. Listen tho, we don’t want to ( and never will ) give your info to anyone, as. long. as. you. don’t. break. the. law. You never, ever ever ever ever ever have to be worried about expressing your viewpoints on Burnbook. Your innermost thoughts and feelings are safe with us. That said, if those thoughts include anything hateful about someone else, then they don’t belong on Burnbook.
The creators of this app are truly insulting our intelligence when they include the following in their terms of service:
You must not bully, harass, threaten, or abuse anyone while using this service.
Are you kidding me?? It’s called “Burnbook” for Pete’s sake…
Although the creators claim they never intended their app to be used for bullying, we all know that for some reason people can’t resist the temptation to spout off about stupid, hurtful things when provided with a forum to “anonymously” post online.
Check out some of the recent buzz in the media about “Burnbook”:
How does Burnbook work?
The Burnbook app is very similar to the anonymous app Yik Yak. Although the app is intended for users 17 and over, there is no enforced age requirement, and you don’t need to provide any username or password to start using the app. However, you do need to have location services enabled on your device to locate a local community of users. As with Yik Yak, once you locate a community, you are free to start spouting off about whatever is on your mind. Also like Yik Yak, comments are voted up or down by other users. Comments that receive enough down votes may be removed from the app.
A notable difference between Burnbook and Yik Yak is that Burnbook allows users to not only post text comments, but also pictures. So great…here’s another place for teens to post inappropriate pictures of each other.
I installed the app myself to see if it is being used in my local area. I’m happy to say I did not find an active community of Burnbook users in my area. So I feel like I am at least ahead on this one, and have already talked to my kids about how they will not be allowed to use it.
What should parents do?
As a parent, I’m growing more frustrated by the day trying to stay on top of what my kids can do and may be exposed to online. And, my concern is not just about exposure to these things as young teens. Even when they are adults, I wouldn’t want them using many of these apps. I just have to ask why? Why does our society continue to provide a means for our youth to harass each other? Is it more important to make a buck than be socially responsible and look out for our vulnerable, impressionable youth? Apparently it is. Apps like this are cropping up all the time and parents need to be on the lookout. From what I can see, there is nothing in place to protect our kids from exposure to apps like this. We, as parents, have to be the ones paying attention and guiding our kids in their usage of their mobile devices. No one is going to do it for us.
So pick up your kid’s device and look for this Burnbook icon. If you find they are using it, sit them down and have the important discussion about why they should not be spending any time on an app like this. Make sure they fully understand there is no such thing as posting anonymously online. If they aren’t aware, point out the fact that the app tracks their IP address and therefore, everything they do on the app IS traceable back to them. Armed with this information, maybe they will think twice about abusing it if they do find their way to using it.
I will point out again too, that if you don’t want your kids to download these apps without your knowledge, be sure to set up restrictions on their mobile devices. I have done this for my own kids and it works out great. They are forced to ask me for permission to download an app. If they want a new app, they simply have to ask me and I temporarily disable the restrictions on the App store and download it for them. This way, I can easily keep tabs on what they are using.
Do you have anything to share with parents about this app Burnbook? If so, please take a moment to leave a comment.