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Sarahah App Gaining Popularity Among Teens, But Raising Bullying Concerns

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A new app that's gaining popularity among teens can be used for bullying, experts warn.

Sarahah is a messaging service that lets anyone with a link send or receive anonymous texts to those registered. There's no way of knowing who posted the comments and no way to respond to the messages.

So why is everyone talking about it?

"Because, basically, people are afraid to go up to other people and say how they really feel about each other," teen Melanie Pastor, of Bellport, told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan.

It was initially created by a Saudi developer who was worried about workplace discrimination.

"It started out with a good purpose. So people can expose the bosses that are mistreating certain employees," mother Rosanna Pastor said. "But then when it goes into the wrong hands, it goes from something positive to something negative, like cyberbullying."

The app can now be integrated into Snapchat and has become a serious lure for teens.

"It's very important for parents to talk to their kids all the time about new apps and new ways of communication, so that they don't abuse it," said Alane Fagin, of Child Abuse Prevention Services on Long Island.

She said cyberbullying is only part of the reason why the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 has reached a 40-year high. She said most teens are responsible with social media.

"People should be accountable for what they say," one teen said.

If he and his sister remain on the honor roll, they keep their smartphones and their apps. But their mom has some parental rules.

"There is no bullying allowed. You cannot post anything that would be hurtful or destructive to anybody else," she told McLogan. "I keep the codes to their phones so I can randomly go onto their phones."

Child Abuse Prevention Services is now offering a cyberbullying and internet safety course to Long Island school children from grades five to nine.

In Arabic, "Sarahah" means "frankness" or "honesty."

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