CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Anonymous and even hidden apps are something parents and school districts across North Carolina are having to battle in the fight against cyberbullying.
WSOC-TV reported that students can download the apps right to their cellphones, which encourage students to bully each other. But in some cases, parents can’t even see the apps they are using.
Anywhere students can access social media sites, they can bully their peers. Law enforcement said they expect to see a rise in cases this summer when parents cannot go to their kids’ school for help.
For the past 10 years, Michelle Icard has run the site, Michelle in the Middle, helping students and families navigate the sometimes difficult middle and high school years.
“I’m not particularly tech savvy, I will say but I’m aware of kids and the social issues they face,” Icard said.
She says those issues are now mostly faced online, with no breaks when school lets out.
“Kids today, it’s not as if someone is stuffing a note in their locker anymore. They carry that with them all the time with them on their phone,” Icard said.
Detective Aleta Dunbar works Charlotte-Mecklenburg police’s cybercrimes unit and says it is difficult even for them to stay on top of what apps students are using to bully.
“The more problems and reports that we get about a specific application or app kids are using, then we start to really focus in on those,” Dunbar said.
Icard encourages parents to get online, in the same social media spaces as their kids but says, even then, parents may not know everything.
“There is a way for kids to hide what apps they have on their phone,” Icard said.
Anonymous apps are a big concern, like Ask.fm, which lets kids criticize without saying who they are.
In an alert from Myers Park last week, the school’s principal asked parents to check for an app called “Yik Yak” because, “Students who have the app are making anonymous posts about students, teachers, etc.
Many of the posts are personal attacks, derogatory, hurtful, abusive and are examples of cyberbullying,” the alert said.
Myers Park said it took steps to have the app blocked by cellular towers around the school.
“If it’s not that app, it’s going to be something else,” Dunbar said. “As parents, you have to know what your kids are using.”
And Dunbar says, stay on top of how they’re using those apps.
“Cyberbullying” is a misdemeanor crime and could end up on a student’s record.