NewsLocal NewsCleveland Metro


Parents in Massillon fear popular After School app can lead to cyber bullying and suicide

Posted: 5:35 PM, Jan 31, 2018
Updated: 2018-01-31 17:39:24-05

Perry Township in Stark County has been  rocked by a string of student suicides, prompting concerned parents in a neighboring town to try and prevent similar tragedies in their community by stopping the spread of a popular app.

They're sounding the alarm about After School, which they believe could be a breeding ground for cyber bullying.

News 5 took a closer look at the online community that's raising concerns. It's quickly making a name for itself in Massillon. Invites to join have been popping up on students' and even parents' cell phones quite a bit within the last week.
At least one mom we spoke with worries the hurtful and questionable content being circulated on the app could push a child to their breaking point.

"School life is stressful enough without having to add social media bullying to the mixture," said Becky Johnson.

When Johnson and other concerned parents try to open the app, they get a message saying the content is locked down unless you're a student at Massillon Washington High School.

It's where Johnson's son, Alex, is a Freshman.

"There's some not so kind sentiments that go around," said Johnson.

Sentiments from fellow students that Johnson fears could lead to suicide.

"We certainly don't want an epidemic starting here in the Massillon schools."

After School allows users to post comments about classmates anonymously.

"If they're anonymous, and not visible to the adults, then I really don't think they have any business being out there," said Johnson. 

Courtney Brown, a high school senior, got an invite to join the app.

"I do really feel it can be a form of bullying," said Brown.

But that's not Brown's only concern.

"There's also like some inappropriate things that go along with it," said Brown.

Apple's App Store acknowledges that concern. It rates After School 17+ for frequent posts featuring drugs, alcohol and nudity.

"A lot of like freshmen and sophomores that have been on it throughout my school and stuff, I feel like that's a little young for that kind of stuff," said Brown.

Meantime, Johnson continues her mission to make every parent aware this app is out there and it’s gaining popularity among vulnerable young people.

"We're just trying to get ahead of it, nip it in the bud, and just ask they think wisely before they accept it," said Johnson.

The vice president of After School told News 5 that bullying is an issue they care about deeply.

After being removed from the App Store following complaints, it's back with more anti-bullying safeguards. 

User posts are now checked using both technology and human moderation. After School also enforces a single-report immediate user removal for violations