Burnbook is a Breeding Ground for Cyberbullying for High School Students

Burn Book and the Problem with Anonymity

Anonymity may enable people to say whatever they want online without any consequences. This has become an ever increasing reality among high school students who cyberbully by mocking other people, revealing secrets and even threatening them, knowing that they won’t be caught. This phenomenon is being perpetuated by an online app called Burnbook. The app is predominately used by high schools students who use it to cyberbully other high school students at their high school or within a 10 mile radius.

The concept of a Burnbook was popularized by the film, Mean Girls, in which a group of girls wrote mean comments and reported rumors and gossip in a physical book about other students. In the film, one of the girls prints the book and leaves flyers all over high school, allowing the writers to be anonymous. This leads to a game of blaming, even causing a teacher to lose her job over false drug allegations printed in those flyers.

Users of the Burnbook app don’t even need to sign in or create a username. Once they join an online community, they are free to post on any topic within ten miles of their location. They can share texts, photos, and audio with other community members. Other users can comment, like, or vote on the content, deciding what stays in the app and what gets removed.

Most of the posts tend to be very personal as comments about private parts, weight and other physical features are quite common. The Burnbook app blurb seen when the app is first downloaded seems to encourage cyberbullying by enticing youth to divulge information they wouldn’t normally. “Together, we can share a secret.” In this vein, users can anonymously send inappropriate pictures, violent threats and spread rumors, while remaining anonymous.

Jonathan Lucas, the CEO and developer of Burnbook, changed what they call objectionable content, which would violate the terms and conditions of the app and get the removed after a student threatened to bring a gun to Del Norte High School in San Diego, but bullying still continues at the school, with name-calling and negative gossip being very common. According to Lucas, low-level bullying that is non-violent or threatening will continued to be allowed.

The main problem is that teens think that they are actually anonymous while in fact each post can be linked to their phone number “As long as you don’t post anything illegal, we will never give your digits to anyone,” reads the app description.

One cannot have complete anonymity on the Internet. In fact, whatever one does online will leave a digital footprint. If the developers find anything illegal posted on the app, one can expect the prospect of legal action. Kids commenting about having sex with someone without their consent, or sending writing death threats to their teachers are all actions that could cause legal action against them. Moreover, as most of the users are under eighteen, sending naked images of themselves to others is considered child pornography, something most children are unaware of.

As of April 1, the app is not available on iTunes but can still be downloaded on Google Play and other third party mobile markets.

Written by, Ravneet Sandhu

May 18 2015 in Whats New admin Comments Off on Burnbook is a Breeding Ground for Cyberbullying for High School Students

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