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    Washington Post: Seeking privacy, teens turn to anonymous-messaging apps

    The Washington Post reports that teens are turning from social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to social-networking apps that allow more privacy and anonymity. Parents and law enforcement officials say such apps raise fears of cyberbullying. The Post reports:

    The picture was typical of the pranks exchanged among Ryan’s Los Angeles classmates on the anonymous-messaging app Backchat, one of a fast-expanding breed of social-media apps that mask users’ identities and can create messages that self-destruct. Anonymous and ephemeral, apps such as Whisper, Secret, Ask.fm and Snapchat fill a growing demand among teens for more fun, less accountability and more privacy online.

    But the boom is opening secret new corners of the Internet at a time when educators and law enforcement officials are worried about the safety of youth online. As teens look increasingly for alternatives to the social giants Facebook and Twitter, the anonymous apps create the opportunity for bullying and cruelty in a forum where they cannot be tracked. […]

    The apps fill a critical need, however, among teens, the majority of whom have their own smartphones and manage their social lives on multiple online networks. Many have been thoroughly lectured about the dangers of sharing too much on traditional sites: They know that future employers and college recruiters are likely to sift carefully through their Twitter and Facebook accounts. […]

    Experts estimate that dozens of anonymous and so-called “ephemeral” apps such as Snapchat have sprung up, attracting millions of teenage users. Most are relatively simple, capable only of sending photos and texts, and there are no fussy profiles or privacy settings. […]

    According to a 2011 Pew Internet and American Life study, nearly nine of 10 teen users said they have witnessed “mean or cruel”actions aimed at peers online. Still, many experts say serious online cruelty is rare and that the risks of cyberbullying have been overblown because of a few high-profile teen suicides.

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