On Friday afternoon I became fully aware the most talked about app over the last few days, ‘Simsimi’, a chatbot app some people are describing as a ‘Social Experiment’ but that I consider to be the home of cyberbullying at the moment.
So what exactly is ‘Simsimi’?
Using artificial intelligence, users can have a conversation with the chatbot. Users can ask anything and the chatbot will respond. The responses can range from a helpful reply to offensive content, but at the moment it is mainly the latter.
Users can also ‘Teach’ the chatbot responses and replies. Users can input any text/phrases/response they wish, the chatbot may then use this as a response to other users if the asked that particular question. This particular function causing concern among schools and parents, with many young people being able to view anonymous responses about themselves when they type their name into the app.
What’s the problem?
Most parents, teachers and adults across the country will have learned of the Korean-developed app this morning as they turned on the radio on their way into work, however, while the adult population are still catching up, the majority of the teens and tweens across the country have already downloaded the app, explored it, anonymously contributed to it, and experienced the results of an app that is solely being used to demoralize and insult their peers.
I want stress the word ‘SOLEY’ by the way, because although a lot of social media sites are used to cyber bully people, their main use is communicating and sharing, and although the app is described in its app store description as the “cutest chatting robot ever”, Simsimi is currently being used ‘SOLEY’ to cyber bully. Also, it’s important to remember, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter can all be contacted about cases of cyberbullying, Simsimi on the other hand, cannot. In fact, Simsimi is completely in-contactable at the moment.
The fact that Simsimi is being used solely for cyberbullying leaves parents in an awkward situation this evening as they sit at the kitchen table to discuss Simsimi. A lot of schools are delivering the message “Please check your sons/daughters use of this app and monitor”, however as most parents will know, this is impossible. Even with the best will in the world, no parent can proactively monitor their sons/daughters use of an app or social media for that matter. The message schools are releasing is purely a generic message that schools release when a tech trend they don’t fully understand makes its way into their school. This is understandable, they want to cover themselves, but this doesn’t help parents or even teachers and students for that matter.
My advice on dealing with Simsimi is simple:
- Firstly, speak to your sons/daughters and make sure they understand now, before anything bad happens, that their ‘texted words’ have the same influence on a person as their spoken words.
- Make sure they understand that you are never anonymous and that if they behave inappropriately or illegally online, they will be tracked down and held responsible.
- Let them know that they can talk to you about anything, no matter how serious, scary or upsetting. This is important because don’t forget, they may also be the victim of cyberbullying on Simsimi, so it’s important they feel comfortable and safe speaking to you about this.
- Make sure they know to keep any nasty messages so that you can produce a record of the bullying, the dates and the times. This will be useful for any subsequent school or Garda investigation. (webwise.ie).
- Finally, and most importantly, trust them. Trust that your sons/daughters are well rounded, responsible people who know the difference between right and wrong, and would never participate in cyber bullying. This is often the most important thing in dealing with these situations.
I do believe that Simsimi will be removed from the app store in the coming weeks and months, and if it isn’t, the hype will most definitely go away. Until then, however, it’s important we understand that Simsimi is being used to viciously attack people online using some the most hurtful and disgusting words in the English language, so we must be cautious and informed in order to ensure that we don’t have to read the stories of those kids who thought their messages were just a ‘joke’ and those parents who had to bury their child who just “couldn’t take the bullying anymore”.