Although I’m not a parent, the article, “Burnbook: What parents need to know about the controversial app” immediately grabbed me as I have spent a considerable amount of time volunteering and working in schools. The app Burnbook, is based on a concept made popular by the movie Mean Girls in which a group of friends journaled about gossip and rumors. The actual Burnbook is very similar. Once downloaded, you are able to search for and then join communities. Once a part of a community, you are able to anonymously post on any topic such as “Jokes, fails, wins, sightings, shout outs, revelations, proclamations and confessions“. The community is then able to vote and comment on what gets to stay up and what doesn’t.
Now, the idea of a digital burn book is not new. Thinking back to my time in undergrad, there was a very popular blog, Juicy Campus, that had the same premise. Currently, there apps such as Whisper, Secret and Yik Yak all offer the same promise of being able to post gossip anonymously. However, Burnbook appears to be the only one going after school communities.
The choice to primarily target school communities has opened Burnbook up to criticism that it is enabling the cyber bullying of young teens. Many of the app’s reviews reflect this sentiment. For some, it is easy to not take the app seriously as gossip and bullying are not new concepts. However, these posts have had a very real impact on a school in San Diego when it was discovered a student threatened to bring a gun to school. The incident prompted Burnbook creators to make a change within the app that will make it easier to delete posts users find offensive. Although a step in the right direction, that will do little to stop hurtful posts that aren’t necessarily threats.
Some parents have chosen to fight the app with threads that only have positive comments in hopes that others will catch on.
The hope is that the more parents post and are seen within the app, the less popular the app will become with teens. Even is the app goes away, chances are another will come along to replace it.