Popular app making changes after privacy, safety concerns raised by school districts
BATON ROUGE - An app designed to connect students with their classmates and to help organize their day is undergoing changes after parents and school districts -- including at least one in the Baton Rouge area -- raised safety concerns.
The "Saturn" app has been available for several years, but appears to have seen a surge in popularity of late.
It promises to help high school students coordinate their day, and it allows those who sign up to network with others at their school, sharing class schedules and providing an outlet for direct communication.
But some have raised red flags, noting that they were able to log in as students, even though they were not who they claimed to be.
Livingston Parish Public Schools is among the districts issuing an advisory to parents. It reads: If your child installed the Saturn App on his/her iPhone, you may want to delete it. The app claims to be the ultimate organizer for busy high school life, but lacks important features that protect the user from predation, cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and (it doesn't protect their) privacy.
The company behind the app responded with an update to the software, which it said it submitter over the weekend.
An online message explains: Over the last few weeks, Saturn has been growing faster than ever. We’re honored to give students an easy and fun way to manage the school day. Saturn started in the halls of a Connecticut high school—we built it to solve real problems that students face every day. We are committed to creating an amazing company that puts students first.
Our rapid growth has invited reasonable questions from students, parents, and schools about who we are, what we do, and how we aim to keep school communities and students safe. We want to be clear: our most important job is keeping students safe—and we take this responsibility very seriously. We’re constantly working to make Saturn safer for every user on the platform.
The company then notes what steps have been taken to strengthen verification and limit access to student information.
Additional detail is provided here.
Carlos Williams, the LPPS director of technology, shared the following context with WBRZ News 2:
This week is digital citizenship week in our schools and each day we are sending out digital resource tools and/or information to our school communities.
This app is one that is getting some notoriety nationwide as one parents should be aware of due to cyber safety concerns.
I think the app is promoted as one that aids in set up of schedules and such, so with the start of the school year it is coming to the forefront for organizations/groups (like Common Sence Media) that watch apps for minor safety.
We posted information as an FYI for parents and community members so they can be aware of it.
To our knowledge we have not had any issues with usage in our district or anything like that.
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