Tbh is a social media app that became an overnight sensation in the latter part of 2017 and is currently one of the most popular downloads amongst teens in America. Tbh, which stands for ‘To Be Honest’, gained popularity so quickly that Facebook acquired it after only three months in the marketplace . Tbh is specifically designed to be an anonymous platform for positive peer-to-peer commenting and polling amongst teens, where the winners of each poll are rewarded with ‘gems’ that indicate their tbh popularity . At first glance, tbh may seem like a breath of fresh air for parents as it only allows good behaviour, kindness and positive social interactions, but is it really safe for children?
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Tbh closely manages aggressive or anti-social polling. It’s first line of protection for children is heavy moderation ( all user submissions are vetted and only around 1% of polling questions are approved) which is built into the system to prevent cruelty and cyberbullying
. If any of the polling questions accepted by tbh generate complaints from users, the management team deals with them swiftly. A spokesperson for tbh explains:
“Anytime we get a complaint about a question, we remove it right away,” the spokesperson said. “We usually don’t deliberate too much; if it upsets someone, it’s gone.”
Although tbh moderates their app to make it safer for teens, there are still areas of concern. For example, tbh has an alarming disregard for user privacy. All users are forced to allow the app full access to their location, which includes their school, and their contacts. Teenagers who want to interact with their peers have a youthful nonchalance about their privacy, but it should be of concern to parents. The developers are also intending to roll out a messaging platform, which will allow one on one interactions in a private online setting . Protection advocates SmartSocial have flagged this app as ultimately unsafe for children and teens, and at this stage, we agree.
If your children are using tbh, we do recommend you monitor their usage. Children are creative and adaptable, just because tbh has built-in safety measures to prevent bullying and negative behaviour, it cannot guarantee your child is safe from these issues. It is our recommendation that you monitor the way your child interacts with the app, and as always, we suggest that you communicate with your kids about their online interactions. A system of non-invasive monitoring in real-time combined with open communication between you and your child, we believe, is the most effective approach to online safety.
Something to watch with tbh is how it can be adapted from positive to negative . For example, teens can, and do, manipulate language. A word that a parent would see as positive can be reinvented as negative by teens, and used as a bullying tactic, as can piling positive voting on someone, as a way of singling them out. At a glance, it can look like they are being treated well, but under the surface, this can be an act of aggression or exclusion.
To explain that in another way, using a historical online bullying example, troublemaking online groups in the early 2000’s who wanted to send warnings, or make threats to people, would often use pizza delivery as an intimidation technique. By ordering pizzas to be sent to an address of a target, that target was made aware that their home address was known, yet there was nothing to report to authorities as a pizza delivery is not a crime . This is an extreme example of cyberbullying, however, it shows how tangibly innocent things can be manipulated to mask menacing behaviour with something that seems ordinary to those on the outside of the interaction. The Internet is not always what it seems and parents should stay involved and aware of their children’s online socialisation.