The app designed to make you feel bad - Kids bullied by the latest iPhone craze
SIMON WELLS and SARAH DUNN-JONES
Last updated at 10:21 AM on 22nd Febuary 2011
With cyber bullying on the increase and the recent closure of website LittleGossip, there is now another IPhone application being used as a tool of hate on school playgrounds. 'Dr Sam Rates your Looks' is an app that purports to pass a scientifically based comment on how attractive you are.
It has quickly become a favorite of classroom bullies, who have realized that the app is much quicker to condemn than to praise. Last week in Gateshead, a 13 year old boy was sent home from school for taking photos of other pupils in the lunch queue and sending the negative rated students to the back of the line. A spokesperson for the school said that, "they had received complaints about a specific app, and even though phones are banned in school, pupils often flouted the rules, especially during breaks and lunch." She added, "developers of applications such as Dr Sam were making the problem worse, as bullies are quick to pick up new technologies and use them to 'make other pupils feel ugly and unwanted'" She went on to call for parents to keep a closer eye on what smart phone applications they allow their children to download.
Further south, a school in Oxford has reported a craze where individuals are being targeted by users of the Dr Sam app, and having their ratings uploaded onto social networking sights such as Facebook. One pupil, branded 'a mouldy old douchebag' by Dr Sam has been kept home from school, and is being treated for depression.
Not Appy. 12 year old Steven Turnridge and his mother Jenine. Inset: The offending 'rating'
We spoke to some pupils at King Edward's School in Hackney, and asked them what they thought of the app. Damien Harper, 14, thought "The app is funny. I don't mind if it calls me 'Mr Buff Ting' or 'Moose Chops'. It's fun, and we do it loads until we get a good one to put on Facebook"
But things are different for fellow class member Charlene Paige, 13: "I don't have an iPhone so it means that I always end up as the butt of the jokes. I got called a 'Nanny Magnet', and now everyone is calling me that. I think it's more fun for boys who want to show off or make other people feel bad."
Offensive: Nasty images of UK teens, taken from facebook. These images can be uploaded without the subject's consent.
On support sites set up to combat all kinds of cyber-bullying, parents are expressing concern and calling for Dr Sam and similar apps to be banned. They scored a victory last week when the notorious rumour spreading website 'Little Gossip' was voluntarily closed down by its owners following a high profile media campaign. Parents are hoping that by raising awareness that the creators of cruel apps such as Dr Sam may do likewise.
The problem with Dr Sam, as opposed to other face rating technology seems to be the breadth of insults available, from percentage ratings to endless lists of hateful jibes. "Kids don't need encouragement or new ways to belittle each other", says head teacher Mary Swanface. Dr Sam has been a hit with adults - but in the hands of kids, "it's a weapon of malice"
The Daily Mail is launching a campaign to ban all non-useful smartphone apps. 'Dr Sam Rates Your Looks' is the most recent in a long line of cruel apps, portraying users as overweight, bald, as zombies among many others. Enough is enough! David Cameron speaks of a 'Big Society', and The Daily Mail feels like this is a great place to start. Support can be pledged by emailing email@example.com. We will to present a document of signatures to parliament by 2nd April 2011, in time for the Gibson debate, which will see the introduction of a bill designed to put tougher regulations in place to end cyber-bullying.
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